This article is by freelance writer Priyanka Mogul
They say that technology contributes to the decline of our mental health, with research highlighting links between heavy smartphone usage and increased anxiety among students. A digital detox has increasingly become a common phrase used to refer to improving one’s mental health by disconnecting from technology.
But not everything associated with technology has to have a negative impact on our mental health. A large number of smartphone apps are now being created to improve our mental health. In a time when many are still apprehensive about openly discussing mental health, these apps are providing a space for people to address their mental health issues – rather than letting them be ignored or swept under the rug.
Here’s a roundup of our favourite apps that can boost your mental health, one tap at a time.
1. Be Mindful*
Everyone’s talking about mindfulness – and it’s not difficult to see why. By understanding how to adopt a mind-body approach to life, creators of this app say that you can learn to relate differently to your experiences, as well as manage difficult situations and make wiser choices.
Through this online course, you can learn to reduce stress, depression and anxiety by taking yourself through the different elements of mindfulness-backed cognitive therapy (MBCT). The whole thing can be completed in as little as four weeks.
If you’re someone who finds it difficult to talk (or write) about how you’re feeling, Cove is the app for you. This interactive digital journal allows you to capture your mood and express how you through music.
Using the app, you can create loops of music by picking a general mood for the track and then arranging notes and chords to create your very own composition. You can also choose from a range of instruments and sound effects, allowing you to choose sounds that truly match how you are feeling.
Anxiety and stress management
3. Chill Panda*
Chill Panda monitors your anxiety levels by measuring your heart rate through the camera on your phone. It then asks you to tell you how you’re feeling and, based on your mood and heart rate, goes on to recommend activities that lower your anxiety and increase your mental wellbeing.
The activities suggested by the app range between breathing techniques, yoga, exercises, and calming games. As you complete these tasks, you can watch your mood increase and your heart rate lower through the app.
4. Catch It*
Catch It has been designed specifically for those dealing with anxiety. Rather than avoiding it, this app encourages and helps users to face their anxiety head on by recording and reflecting on how you are feeling.
The app uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to ultimately help change the way you think and feel about things. After asking you to record, rate, and reflect on how you are feeling, it then asks you to think of a better way to deal with the problem you are facing. The outcome sees users turn their negative thoughts into positive ones and improve their general mental wellbeing.
5. Stay Alive
This app is full of useful information, resources and tools that help you stay safe during a time of crisis. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, the app allows you to create customisable reasons for living, as well as includes a LifeBox where you can store memories that are close to your heart.
Alongside its safety plan, the Stay Alive app offers tips on staying calm when feeling overwhelmed, breathing exercises, and links to local and national crisis support helplines. Users can also import safety contacts who can help in the case of suicidal thoughts, as well as create a space for your own positive thoughts and ideas.
6. Calm Harm*
If you’re struggling with self harm, this award-winning app provides tasks that can help you resist the urge to do so. It was developed by Dr Nihara Krause, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist who used the basic principles of an evidence-based therapy referred to as Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.
Through the app, users can choose to be given a task that comforts them, distracts them, allows them to express themselves, controls their breathing, or more. It also allows you to choose between 5 and 15 minute tasks, based on how you are feeling.
Talk to someone
Elefriends was developed by the charity Mind (the National Association for Mental Health) with the aim to create a safe place to listen, share and be heard – particularly for those who are struggling. The online community is open to all, whether you’re feeling good or really low – and is a place where you can share your experiences and listen to those of others.
The platform is moderated by Ele admins between 10am and midnight.
Cypher defines themselves as an anonymous peer-to-peer social network, suitable for anyone who wants to anonymously share their thoughts and connect with others. Through the app, users can give and receive support in times of hardship, as well as connect with support organisations.
Much like other social networks, Cypher users can post comments, ‘hugs’, ‘hearts’, or ‘me2s’ on what their peers are sharing, as well as send each other instant messages. In addition, users can adopt a virtual pet who gets happier the more good you do through the network.
The apps listed above are not a substitute for professional mental health advice. The ones marked with an asterix have been listed in the NHS Apps Library, which asses and tests apps for safety and security.