Can apps help you optimize your well-being and mental health?

It’s 2018, and everywhere you look, necks are bowed into chests while eyeballs firmly fix their gaze on black rectangles. It’s the age of the smartphone – devices that have put the world’s greatest collection of knowledge directly at our fingertips but have also been criticized as the catalyst for a generational mental health crisis.

While smart phones are still relatively new (it’s been little more than a decade since the first iPhone was unveiled), significant amounts of research have been poured into studying their effects on cognitive development, attention spans, social effects and wellbeing. While some experts point to an ultimately net negative effect, many of us have accepted that smartphones and similar technology are here to stay – so why not make the most of it and find ways to use them to boost our mental health?

In today’s blogpost, we’re going to look at some apps and addons that can help you optimize and manage your wellbeing.

*Please note, that these programs should not be considered as a substitute for professional therapeutic or psychiatric services – think of them as tools that can help you track and manage aspects of your life that can contribute to overall wellbeing.

For millennia, meditation has been hailed as revolutionary practice to find discipline, clear the mind, communicate with higher powers and even reach transcendental enlightenment. Today, meditation continues to be a widely hailed technique for building and enhancing inner calm and wellbeing. Headspace puts guided meditations at your fingertips and gives those just starting out the basics as well as all the way up to advanced techniques. Additional valuable features: SOS sessions for moments of panic, anxiety and stress and analytics to track progress.

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock
While this app is meant for iOS devices, there are numerous sleep tracking smartphone apps out there, including those that interface with other wearable technologies to measure your nighttime tossing and turning. The effects of sleep on mental health are well studied, and so they should be: we spend approximately one-third of our lives asleep. Evidence shows that a lack of restful sleep can cause poor mental health. With a sleep tracker, you can find your optimal sleep pattern through data analysis and be able to determine what’s your ideal bedtime and natural wake-up time, if a certain sleep position enhances your sleep and perhaps, where you’ve been wandering all those nights you’ve been sleepwalking. Ultimately, a sleeping app is a critically potent tool for managing both physical and mental health.

Any given day, we’re bombarded by millions of separate and demanding stimuli. Amongst the commotion, it’s easy to lose track of what we need to do to continue to lead of best and most productive lives. Enter Productive, an app with nearly 30,000 positive reviews that gives you the ability to keep track of the big and small items of your daily routine and gamifies the experience to give you a sense of accomplishment when you’re consistently meeting your goals and gives you an extra nudge when you’re not. Productive keeps you honest to yourself and your habits. As we’ve previously discussed, healthy habits are a great way to keep your mental health and wellbeing going strong.

PTSD Coach
This app was first created in 2011 as part of a joint project between Veteran’s Affairs and the US Department of Defense. Since then, it’s been downloaded over 100,000 times in 74 countries across the world. PTSD Coach helps users learn about and manage symptoms that often occur after trauma and provides information on PTSD and treatments that work, tools for screening, tracking and managing symptoms as well as direct links to support and help. The app is also useful for those living with a loved one experiencing PTSD and want to learn more about how they can be supportive.

Developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, this “brain training” iPad game may improve the memory of patients living with schizophrenia and helping them live a more balanced and independent life. After a 9 month study involving 22 participants diagnosed with schizophrenia, the team behind the game found that those who played the memory game made significantly fewer errors on the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) PAL and saw an increase in score on the Global Assessment of Functioning scale, used by doctors to assess adult social, occupational and psychological functioning.

Across smartphones, there are more than 5 million apps currently available; a significant chunk of which that focus on physical and mental health management. Among them, there are wonderful tools that can be used to maintain and manage your wellbeing and help you live a happier life. But don’t forget about the world outside of your iPhone – if you’re ever suffering and feel that you need something beyond a screen, reach out for therapeutic services through your EAP or local medical services.

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