(Five out of ten leading causes of disability around the world are mental health issues. As part of a series of articles leading up to World Health Day on 7 April, The Quint is focusing on raising awareness and mobilising support.)
Whether you need to count calories, find a date, or get someone to stop you from drunk calling – there’s an app for it all!
And although they can’t replace a therapist (I think? Fingers crossed!) there are plenty of apps for mental health and happiness as well. It may seem like fluff or part of some pop psychology charade but in actuality some of these apps have incorporated well-established psychological principles and have helped quite a lot of users.
Here are a few I recommend – some are personal favourites and some on the basis of their functionalities:
Thought Diary Pro (iOS, Paid)
What this is: This app is a thought-tracker based on the principles of cognitive-behavioural therapy. It helps you keep track of your negative thoughts and identify ‘thinking errors’ – or “cognitive distortions”.
How it works: It attempts to modify these thoughts by generating alternatives and challenging your thoughts and feelings.
For example, say – you’re feeling sulky about an interaction you had with a colleague earlier in the day. All you need to do is jot it down and the app will help you recognise – with the help of the record of your previous thoughts – what brings about this thought in you and what can be done about it.
Why you should use it: It is very helpful – though more so if you’re familiar with CBT principles or have been to therapy before.
Where is it available: Thought Diary Pro is available on iOS. Thought Diary is another version – less advanced, but quite effective – available for free on iOS. A good android alternative for this is Cognitive Diary CBT Self-Help.
Fabulous: Motivate me! (Android, Free)
What this is: Fabulous is a habit building app, and at the risk of being clichéd, it is indeed fabulous.
How it works: Initiated in Duke University’s Behavioural Economics Lab, it helps you build desirable rituals in your life by keeping a track of your everyday behaviour, motivating you through bite-sized videos, and rewiring your mind to feel more energetic.
Why you should use it: Though it’s used primarily for fitness and losing weight, it can be used for building a number of habits. With Fabulous, you can set your morning (afternoon/evening) routine by adding habits you want to inculcate and practise. Reminders are sent to you and they are encouraging and scientifically backed.
Where is it available: Android. Though it’s not available for iOS yet, a version is coming up soon according to its website.
Headspace (iOS; Android, Free)
What this is: There are about 780 mindfulness apps out there, but according to the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Headspace is the BEST of the lot.
How it works: It teaches you techniques of mindfulness – through breathing videos, mountain and lake meditation (imagining yourself at either a mountain or a lake). It also covers breath awareness and a body scan which helps you bring attention to all parts of your body and then release tension.
Why you should use it: Designed with a good eye, Headspace actually gives good results. Users showed significant improvement in mood and symptoms of depression.
Where is it available: Both Android and iOS.
The Check-in App (iOS; Android, Free)
What this is: This app is built around the idea of providing support for those suffering from mental health problems like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc.
How it works: It helps you start a conversation with a friend who may be suffering and guides you towards saying the right things. It helps you with situations when a friend may deny help, or when you say something wrong. They also have additional links where one can reach out for support.
Why you should use it: Suppose a friend is showing some signs of an anxiety disorder, but you don’t know for sure or can’t figure out where to reach out in case she needs help. Check in will be your best friend, guiding you all the way.
Where is it available: Both Android and iOS.
Expereal (iOS, Free)
What this is: Expereal is an app which is essentially like a mood ring.
How it works: It helps you keep a track of your moods and hence identify your triggers. It also allows you to rate your life experiences using a 10 point scale and remember your emotional life more accurately. It doesn’t really help you solve your mood problems but it does give you a holistic picture of your satisfaction and experiences.
Why you should use it: It can help you answer questions like, “Is my mood improving over time or not?” “Was I happier last year and why or why not?”
Where is it available: iOS only. But the T2 mood tracker is a good alternative for android users.
(Prachi Jain is a psychologist, trainer, optimist, reader and lover of Red Velvets.)
(This article was first published on 7 February 2016. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark World Health Day on 7 April 2017.)