Sunday, 15 April 2018

7 Free Self-Care Apps (and if they're actually worth downloading)


Being a grown up is hard. It always looked like so much fun when I was little, going to bed when you want, eating whatever you want and getting to go to work instead of school. Turns out, all you want to do is go to bed early, try to avoid eating pizza and get stressed. Joy.

More and more people are turning to self-care to help them manage their stressful lives and to improve their happiness. Anxiety and mental illnesses are now part of our every day and it's something we can improve without shelling out loads of cash or taking too much time out of our busy schedules.

Technology is at heart of a few of our modern day anxiety issues but it can also work to help improve your positivity, mental health and outlook on life. I downloaded 7 of the most recommended self care apps to try out for a week to see which (if any) were worth using and helped make me feel happier and like I had my shit together just a little bit more than usual. Judging by the photo above, I should now go and re-paint my nails as they are covered in kitchen paint, great.


Headspace

What is it?

A super easy to use meditation app that eases you into daily meditation gently with no nonsense.

How long does it take to set up?

Barely a minute to sign up and choose your preferences.

How does it work?

As you sign up you let them know if you've meditated before, choose what you're using the app for (to reduce anxiety, aid meditation, sleep better etc) and select what time of day you want to use it.

You start with 3 minutes of basic, guided meditation and slowly build up to longer and more advanced meditation each day.

How often do you use it?

It's an app to use every day. You can use it at any point in the day, just choose your preference and it will send you a reminder.

What did I think?

Joe and I have been using it every night before we go to sleep and have really liked it so far! It started out a bit awkward and we both focused too much on our breathing and thought we were going to die the first couple of times (we didn't, it's all good).

After a few days we started getting better at not thinking we were going to die and keeping our minds focused on the meditation, it's been helping us get to sleep more quickly and sleeping better in general.

I'd really recommend this one, it takes a few minutes a day and we've already noticed a difference.

Score?

8/10

How can you get it?

Visit the site here for more information or search 'Headspace' in the app store or Google Play to download.


Day  One


How does it work?

It's a really simple diary app so you can just check in and keep up to date. You can also set a reminder so you get a push notification at a certain time to update.

You can also add one photo to each entry with the free version, you can upgrade to a premium version to add more photos and videos if you want to.

How long does it take to set up?

Set up is really quick, just sign up and get started.

How often do I use it?

I use it most days, at the start of my pregnancy I was pretty anxious so used it religiously every single day. Now I'm a bit more settled and comfortable with it all (finally!) I generally update it every few days but you can use it as little or as often as you like.

What did I think?

It's definitely worth using if you want to keep track of how your feeling or just generally keep a diary of what's going on. I found it really useful at the beginning of my pregnancy to track how I was feeling, any symptoms etc but now I'm using it to keep track of our house renovations and bump photos too.

Score?

8/10

How can you get it?

Visit the site here for more information or search 'Day One' in the app store or Google Play to download.


Shine 


How does it work?

Shine sends you a little positive, motivational message each morning Monday to Friday.

How long does it take to set up?

A couple of minutes to get signed up and a few minutes for orientation.

How often do I use it?

Every day Monday to Friday the app sends you a little motivational message. There are also plenty of articles within the app to read and take inspiration from.

What did I think?

It was cute, but to be honest, I mostly forgot to check it in the morning and when I did, I didn't find it that useful. I'll keep going with it though because there may be a nugget of genius to discover! Apparently 93% of regular users said they felt happier and more positive so I must not be using it often enough.

Score?

5/10

How can you get it?

Visit the site here for more information or search 'Shine' in the app store to download. It's not available on Android just yet.


Lumosity


How does it work?

It's daily brain games to keep your mind active, essentially daily brain training! It focuses on maths, language, memory, problem solving and reaction speed. The aim is to play regularly and improve each time.

I've been using the free version but you can upgrade to unlock more games, tracking and the ability to compare with other people your age to see how you measure up.

How long does it take to set up?

About 15 mins to set up your account and play the first three test games. These will determine your mental agility in comparison to people of your age group. To be honest, I found these pretty stressful!

I scored above average on each of the three tests but noticed a huge difference when I turned the TV off when Joe wasn't in the room. The first test I did when he was in the room I scored 16% above average, I then turned the TV off and he went off to start dinner and I scored 43% above average and on the final test he came back and switched the football back on halfway through the game and I scored 36% above average. Really interesting how external factors can influence you!

How often do I use it?

It's a daily app so you can log on and play a game or two each day to train your brain. 

What did I think?

I've quite enjoyed using this one, I rarely ever play games on my phone so it took a bit of getting used to.

Some of the games are actually pretty hard too so you do have to concentrate which also means you're getting a bit of time to focus on this away from busy life. I'm not sure if I'll keep it up religiously but I'll definitely keep it on my phone to dip in and out of.

Score?

7/10

How can you get it?

Visit the site here for more information or search 'Lumosity' in the app store or Google Play to download.

Sleepbot


How does it work?

The app wakes you up at the best point during a 30 minute period before your alarm is set. So for example if your alarm is set at 6.30, it'll wake you up between 6 and 6.30.

It then tracks your sleep, how many times you wake up and any sleep talking (which could be interesting!). You can then see analytics of your sleep and train yourself to sleep better.

How long does it take to set up?

About a minute. There's no guided set up but it's easy to use, just tap the alarm to set an alarm for the following day.

How often do I use it?

It's to be used every night to track your sleep and help you to build a routine.

What did I think?

To be honest, it doesn't offer a huge amount more than the standard iPhone alarm and sleep tracking. At the moment I'm regularly waking up throughout the night (thanks bump) so it has not been a pretty picture this week! I imagine it would be useful to other people though.

Score?

5/10

How can you get it?

Visit the site here for more information or search 'SleepBot' in the app store or Google Play to download.

Happify


How does it work?

Happify helps you make little changes and train your brain to reduce negativity and improve your happiness. It's based on science too, fancy.

You play weird little games to make yourself feel more positive, for example there's one with hot air balloons with positive and negative words on, the aim is to tap on the positive to get more points. It weirdly did make me feel calmer!

How long does it take to set up?

About 5 minutes to sign up and complete the questions to help suggest you a happiness 'track'. Then if you want to get started straight away, it'll take quite a while to play the first few games.

How often do I use it?

It's to be used every day to keep your positivity levels up and train your brain to react to the positive over the negative. 

What did I think?

The app was pretty slow, it wasn't very responsive and kept pausing which wasn't quite the relaxing situation I wanted! Some of the functionality was a bit annoying too for example there were boxes to fill in with questions but there was no way to see the end of the question...

This one was probably a bit too far for my liking, it was nice but a bit more intense than I'd like. Plus you get emails from 'Derrick' and I just don't want to trust someone called Derrick.

Score?

3/10

How can you get it?

Visit the site here for more information or search 'Happify' in the app store or Google Play to download.


Moment


How does it work?

It tracks how long you spend on your phone each day so you can see how depressing it is and aim to reduce your screen time.

It shows you how many hours you spend a week on your phone, how many times you pick it up to check and the % of your waking life you spend on your phone.

You can also use their 'coach' which encourages you to limit your screen time and basically tells you off when you use it too much.

There is also Moment Family so you can track your family's screen time and set reminders for set times like dinner to reduce screen time.

How long does it take to set up?

A couple of minutes, it's really nice and easy!
 
How often do I use it?

You'll get a push notification every day to let you know how long you spent on your phone the previous day. Sometimes it scares me so much I want to throw my phone in the sea

What did I think?

This week I've spent about 3.5 hours a day and 22% of the time I've been awake on my phone which is HORRIFIC. This week has been a funny one as I had Monday off work so was incessantly checking work emails, spent quite a bit of time organising kitchen renovation things and, funnily enough, writing this blog post meant I spent more time on my phone as usual!

I usually spend about 2-3 hours a day on my phone but some days go up to 5 hours (vomit) if I'm on the train or on a work shoot and need to keep on top of emails.

This is a super useful app for those of you who want to reduce your screen time or need some encouragement to put it down.

Score

7/10

How can you get it?

Visit the site here for more information or search 'Moment' in the app store to download. It's not available on Android just yet.

For me this has been a very busy, pretty stressful week so it's been a great one to test these apps on. Not all of them have been useful, but if you're going to download one, I'd go for Headspace. Even though I'm not really a meditation kind of girl, this app makes it accessible and easy to fit into your every day life without mention of whales or other magical creatures... If you have tried any of these or have any other recommendations, leave a comment below to let me and others know what you think!
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