(Disclaimer: these apps are not meant to replace therapy with a licensed clinician, treatment for severe mental illnesses, or for medical or mental health emergencies).
These days, we are always glued to our phones-- reposting memes, doomscrolling on TikTok, making our self esteem worse by comparing ourselves to Instagram models, saving hundreds of recipes on Pinterest that we'll never cook, and reading depressing news stories. So, how do we use our distraction cubes to actually better ourselves and improve our lives? Luckily, some amazing humans out in the world have created apps with your mental and physical health in mind!
We found some of them-- and tested them for you! Here are our favorites:
Best Self Care App
You can choose specific journeys, like "build confidence", and use its pre-written daily, weekly, or monthly goals, such as writing an affirmation for yourself every day. If you don't like them, no worries! You can create your own. It also has a social feature to invite your friends to your forest, OR you can just put someone in that you want in your thoughts that isn't on the app at all.
The app has built in breathing exercises, grounding exercises, and stretching and exercise videos to help you with your self care goals. You can write "reflections", which can help you to process your emotions throughout the day. It also has a very sweet feature-- "acts of kindness" goals, and you can earn rainbow stones from paying for another person's coffee, leaving a kind note on a strangers car, and other little acts of kindness that bring joy to those around you.
It includes quizzes where you can test your anxiety, depression, pessimism, gratitude, sleepiness, and body appreciation, so you can understand more about yourself and what most needs improvement.
There is both a free and paid version. (I ended up liking it so much that I paid the $30 for the year. It's usually $40, but when I put "it's too expensive" as a reason not to purchase it, it knocked it down by $10!)
Altogether, it's really worth a try if you're looking to improve your self-care (and self-love!)
Best Focus App
Focus Plant relies on the same concept, except it uses cute plants as motivation. The longer you set the timer to focus, the more "raindrops" you get to plant new plants and water them with-- and the higher the level they become. You collect little dinosaur gardeners that you can level up, which raises the amount of raindrops you can receive for each focus session. There's also a social feature, where you can join or make a group and plant trees.
Altogether, we think it's adorable, fun, and makes focusing a breeze. It's super motivating to see the raindrops add up, discover new worlds, acquire new gardeners, and collect all those weird little plants.
Best Healthy Habits App
It doesn't push you to suddenly start doing CrossFit or go on a juice cleanse. Instead, it recognizes that habits are formed little by little. By taking on what you can handle, even if it's just doing five pushups or eating one fruit a day, or even mental health changes such as "avoid negatively labeling [yourself]", you can start yourself on a much longer, much more lasting journey to health and self-discovery.
The most important thing that Fresh Tri does (in our opinion) is take the shame out of wanting to become healthy. Bye, fatphobia and unrealistic body standards! Hello body appreciation and self-love.
Best CBT App
CBT helps you recognize that these thoughts aren't completely true, and sometimes they're just utter nonsense. With CBT, you gain awareness of your "cognitive distortions", and use specific methods to re-work them into something that's more realistic and more self-compassionate.
It's a great therapy-- but it's easy to get caught up in the chaos of daily life and forget how to decode your thoughts. We can't carry around our therapist in our pocket, but we almost always have our phones! That's why we like CBT Companion. With the free version, you can use their "challenge your automatic thought" tool to write down your negative thought, identify the cognitive distortion, and challenge it. It also has useful tools like a journal to record your day-to-day emotions, moods, and thoughts. It has mindfulness tools, breathing exercises, a sleeping log, and plenty of educational videos if you want to learn more about CBT. It also has "SMART" goal building, which is a method to make specific, achievable goals.
Add it to your home page if CBT is something that works with you-- or talk to your therapist about trying it if you haven't yet!
Best Overall Mental Health App
My Possible Self is sort of an all-in-one, with a mood tracker, podcasts, journal, logs for sleep, drinks, and food, mindfulness audios/videos, articles, physical exercise and yoga/stretching videos, recipes, quizzes, therapeutic tools for anxiety, depression, and alcohol use, breathing tools, and guided series like "overcoming your anxiety". If you need help holding yourself accountable, it includes a "risky places" feature, which will monitor if you're close to a place that will trigger drinking or gambling behaviors. It's got pretty much everything-- including a "crisis" button that will dial 911 for you or direct you mental health helplines, such as NAMI, Mental Health America, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, The Addiction Center, and SAMHSA treatment referral helpline. (Just make sure to click the "USA" button. )
We're so grateful to the creators of My Possible Self for making mental health tools so accessible!
Best LGBTQIA2+ Mental Health App
The creators of "Evolve" recognized this, and came up with an app specific to the LGBTQIA2+ community and allies.
The app has interactive therapeutic activities for a variety of LGBTQIA2+ specific situations, such as "exploring your identity", "coming out to loved ones", "dealing with microaggressions", "being a proud ace", and "living in a homophobic society". It has activities to help you with your relationships, increasing your self-love, and deal with social anxiety, all based on mindfulness and meditation. It also has a journal feature to keep track of your feelings and thoughts.
It's due to some amazing people out in the world that we are starting to have more and more resources available for people of all walks of life!
Best OCD App
Many people with OCD get little to no understanding and empathy from those around them. That's why the nOCD app can be so powerful! nOCD is basically a mix between a message board/social platform and a therapy app. It allows you to reach out to others who share your experiences, and get help from a certified OCD specialist (which is covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, Kaiser Nor-Cal, Aetna and others). They provide a free 15-minute call to get more information. If your insurance doesn't cover therapy, there are still options for you! Feel free to use the self guided Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy and SOS tools, post to the community, and read others' inspiring stories of recovery.