The idea of practicing mindfulness can be alien to many people who don’t know where to begin. If you like the idea of self care and improving your mental wellbeing by taking some time for you each day, then there are apps out there that can help. Here we outline the apps we think are best to help with meditation, sleep, productivity and journaling.
(If you are experiencing strong negative feelings and thoughts most of the time then we would advise seeking professional help rather than relying solely on an app. For a free consultation, contact us here.)
People often see meditation as something rather strange, only practiced by “new age” or spiritual individuals. This is not the case; meditation is proven to help calm our minds and provide clarity on our feelings. Meditation is used by many as a stress reliever and can simply mean sitting in silence or listening to calming sounds and focusing on your breathing for a few minutes.
As it can be confusing knowing where to start, apps can help you to meditate and relax without you having to think about it. If you are someone with anxiety or high levels of stress, using an app to meditate could help to quieten your mind. These are the apps we think do it best:
Headspace is a meditation and mindfulness app which breaks meditation and self care into manageable and digestible chunks. The app provides breathwork, meditation, sleep assistance and a movement mode which focuses on short workouts to reduce stress.
The app is an overall mindfulness experience, helping you work through different feelings and reminding you to take care of yourself. They also have tailored activities and meditation for kids.
Headspace offers one or two week trials and then subscriptions for £9.99 per month or £44.99 per year.
Calm is a meditation app which uses soothing sounds from nature to meditate, relax, help with
sleep or focus. You can build your own playlists and if meditation doesn’t appeal to you, simply listening to the music for a few minutes at the end of a stressful day can help you to relax.
They also offer a Sleep Stories series where a story is read to you by a soothing voice to help you get to sleep. You can choose the voice of the reader and stories can be narrated by the likes of Stephen Fry and Matthew McConaughey.
Calm offers a free trial for one week then it is £28.99 per month.
Colorfy is an adult colouring book app. Studies show that colouring is cathartic and helps to relieve stress by taking our minds away from our feelings or the chaos of daily life, acting like a version of meditation.
The app is essentially free online colouring books for adults (available for children too). Many of its users say they cannot believe something so simple works to calm them down from stress or anger.
It is free to download and offers in-app purchases.
Many of us struggle with procrastination and lack of focus on a daily basis. Sometimes our minds can’t stop thinking about all of the things on our to-do list to the point where we get nothing done at all.
If you want to learn more tips on how to stop procrastinating, read our blog about it.
There are a lot of apps with the aim of helping people focus, increase productivity and therefore reduce stress. Here are the apps we find most helpful:
Forest helps you focus by stopping you from using your phone for long periods of time. You can set time limits for how long you want to focus and while you’re focusing (not using your phone) it will start to grow a cartoon tree. As soon as you start using your phone apps again the tree will stop growing and wither. In the long term you grow your own forest of trees and you can create groups with family and friends where you share or compete on who has the best forest, i.e. who has stayed focused away from their phone for the longest.
It can be hard to notice how many times we mindlessly pick up our phone out of habit. With the tree dying if you open Instagram or Facebook it’s a great incentive to force you to focus on work for longer and stop procrastinating. Many students have also found it helped them to focus on studying.
Forest costs $1.99 (roughly £1.60) to use indefinitely.
2. Focus Keeper
In our blog ‘Find your focus: how to stop procrastinating’ we explained a method to stop procrastinating called the Pomodoro Technique. In this method you focus on a task for 25 minutes, give yourself a short 3-5 minute break, repeat 4 times, and then have a longer break. The idea is that by using your brain for short bursts and rewarding yourself with breaks, you’ll get more of your to-do list done in less time, work quicker and avoid burnout.
Focus Keeper uses this technique to help you build productive habits – it allows you to set a daily goal of tasks you need to complete and then sets the timers for you. You can also customise the time, breaks, alarms and review your progress through analytics.
Focus Keeper is free to download.
Freedom is a phone and desktop app similar to Forest but instead of stopping you from using the device as a whole, it just blocks you from using certain websites. Mainly built for desktop use, it is best used to stop you from online shopping, gaming or gambling and can block websites across all devices – so if you download it on your Windows desktop you can block the same sites from your phone.
The principle is that you decide which websites are the most distracting to you and it blocks you from using them for a time period of your choice, still allowing you to use things you need like email etc. For desktop it acts as a browser extension and even when you aren’t using it to block websites, you can use it to see which websites you spend the most time on and how long you’re procrastinating for.
It is free to download and all download links are here on the Freedom website.
When we haven’t slept well we’re more likely to become irritable and stressed by things which we would usually not care much about. The flip side is that when we’re stressed with work or situations in life, we can find it difficult to switch off and sleep. This creates a cycle of stress and tiredness which can sometimes lead to mental health issues and strained relationships.
Sleep apps can be a great way to really help you unwind when counting sheep won’t cut it. Meditation apps such as Headspace and Calm offer sleep help but there are also some free apps made for sleep alone which might suit you better.
Portal provides soundscapes to help you sleep, focus or wind down from a busy day. By escaping noise or the noise of your mind, the sounds are made to make you relax and make it easier to get some shut-eye.
If you’re someone who finds the sound of rain pounding on your window soothing, you’ll love this app!
Portal is free to download but only available on iPhone.
Pillow works on your phone or Apple Watch and records your sleep so you can see trends and habits that could be stopping you from having a good night’s kip. You can see how often you’re waking up in the night and more insights which the app uses to advise you on the best time to go to sleep for your sleep pattern.
One of the main features is the alarm which uses your sleep cycle to predict the best time to wake you up. If you want to wake up at a certain time, it’ll wake you up within 30 minutes of that time but at the best time in your sleep cycle, so you wake up feeling refreshed and less groggy.
Pillow is free to download but only available on iPhone.
Noisili is an app with background noises and playlists that you can customise to help you focus or get to sleep. The main difference in this app is that you can mix different sounds to create your own songs that help you focus for work or get to sleep. You can also set timers so if you use it to sleep it’ll stop playing after a while.
The basic package is free and then you can pay for a couple of different subscriptions for more features. It can also be downloaded on desktop and mobile if you’d prefer to use it for work.
Journaling can help you to let go of the thoughts in your head that may be getting in the way of your everyday life, but it’s also great for checking in with yourself and figuring out how you really feel. Writing down what you’re thinking about and how you’re feeling on paper or an app may help you to gain clarity on your thoughts or things that are happening in your life.
Although journaling is really beneficial to many, it can be difficult knowing where to begin. This is where the following apps come in; by giving you prompts, a digital diary, or activities to play they can help you figure yourself out and create a more positive, stress free life.
Reflectly is a personal journal app which uses AI to ask you questions about how you’re feeling, help you think positively and teach you to focus on your own wellbeing. By taking a few minutes a day to think about how you’re feeling and why, it gives direction to help reduce stress and negative thoughts.
The app is free to download.
Happify provides science-based activities and games to overcome negative thoughts and feelings, combat stress and build positive habits. The aim is to help you build skills to overcome negativity and lead a happier life.
The app offers different programmes tailored to support people with career success, building self confidence, meditation and so on.
Happify is free and available on desktop and mobile.
Similar to Reflectly, Jour is a journaling app which helps you build a healthier, more mindful outlook on life. Jour makes journaling easier by offering prompts and interactive guides to improve confidence, set goals, practice gratitude to help overcome feelings such as loneliness and anxiety.
Jour has tailored journals for however you are feeling that day with questions catered to you. It also provides an overview of your thought and feeling patterns. By having sight of patterns of negativity or worrying feelings then it could help you realise you may need professional support.
The app is free to download but only available on iPhone.
We hope you find these apps useful, please let us know if you download any of them off the back of our recommendation.
If you think you need more help than an app can provide, our specialist therapists are here to help online, by phone, WhatsApp or email. Get a free consultation by contacting us here, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling +44 1423 857939 today.