Lately, in both my clinical practice and in my personal life, I have noticed myself making and giving lots of lists of self care suggestions. For example, a couple weeks ago, I jotted down a list of 3 or 4 books on mindfulness, self esteem, and organization for a client struggling with anxiety and depression to check out of the library. Also, I recently texted a list of several healthy daily self care habits to a friend going through a breakup. When we need support from ourselves, it is important to have a list of several ways in which we can practice self care. Relying on one habit, one book, one activity is a mistake because we are dynamic creatures; our moods and needs change several times a day. Upon the suggestion of a family member, I have decided that this month's blog series will explore the idea of "Top Ten" lists. In the spirit of list making, I will be sharing weekly lists of self care resources that I recommend.
To kick of this month's series. I would like to share my list of Top Ten Apps for Self Care! Many of us are on our phones a LOT. And I don't necessarily think this is a negative thing! It completely depends on how we use this technology. Use of our mobile devices can definitely be destructive, but cell phones also have the capacity to be wonderful self care tools. If we are constantly scrolling through social media apps on our phones and find ourselves coming way with feelings of jealousy, discontent, inadequacy, and depression, then this is not self care. However, if we are spending time on our phones to express gratitude, receive affirmations, or practice mindfulness, this is another story. Check out the ten apps below, which I have learned about through internet research, recommendations from coworkers and friends, and through my own personal use of these various tools. Do you use any of these apps? Know of other apps you would suggest? Tell me about it in the comments!
HEADSPACE- (free 10 day trial/monthly subscription)
This app advertises itself as a “gym membership for the mind.” It is a free 10 min/day guided meditation app that helps users practice mindfulness to become calm and centered in their present circumstances. After the free 10 day trial, you can choose to subscribe and unlock access to hundreds of hours of guided meditations for a huge variety of issues, such as relationship stress, creativity, addiction, depression and more. Lots of my client’s use this app to deal with anxiety and have found it very rewarding.
MONUMENT VALLEY- ($3.99)
This is my personal favorite mobile app for self care. Developed by ustwo, Monument Valley is an iOS/Android game that incorporates elements of mythology, sacred geometry, and impossible architecture ala M.C. Escher. As “Ida” a silent princess dressed in all white, you journey through beautifully designed spaces, solving puzzles along the way. There is no time limit, no looming danger, no way to “lose” this game; it is the perfect way to escape for a few moments each day to a place where curiosity is rewarded and you are free to engage with the world in a calm and peaceful way.
GRATITUDE JOURNAL - ($2.99)
As humans, our brains have a natural tendency to scan for the negatives in our lives. Evolutionarily, this makes sense! The early humans who had the types of minds that anxiously recalled every threat and hardship were the ones who avoided danger at all costs, and thus, they were the ones who survived, passing their genes on to us- their descendants. Without the anxious brains of our early ancestors, we wouldn’t be here. In our current world, many humans (I wish I could say most or all) no longer exist in a state of constant danger, so the brain’s tendency to scan for the negative is no longer necessary or helpful. By encouraging us to slow down and appreciate what is going well, this app helps rewire our brain, so that we are better able to notice and feel thankful for the positive that happens all around us each day.
AFFIRMATIONS INSPIRED BY NATURE - (FREE)
This app provides users with soothing affirmations set to music. There are several topics to choose from, including adversity, depression, anxiety, and guilt. Themes and metaphors from nature are used to provide guidance and support to listeners, and there is the option to save your favorite affirmations to a special playlist for future listening. This app also includes exercises that go along with each of the topics, giving users concrete ideas about how to address their feelings in a healthy way.
INSIGHT TIMER - (FREE)
This is the highest rated free meditation app for both iOS and Android users. Through the use of Tibetan singing bowls, it provides users with incredibly soothing and mindful music that plays in the background throughout meditation sessions, timed by a soft and gentle bell. There is also the option to listen to one of the more than 2,000 free guided meditations led by experts in the field, including Eckhart Tolle, Pak Merta Ada, Thich Nhat Hanh, Tara Brach, and Jack Kornfield. If straight meditation is not your thing, this app branches out into guided Yoga, Tai Chi, Walking, Breathing, Chanting, Prayer, and Healing activities. The thing I find most exciting about this app, and the thing that sets it apart from other meditation apps, is the community that comes along with it. The app allows you to connect with other users, get information about local meet-ups, and access discussion groups on various topics.
CUT THE ROPE - (FREE AND PAID VERSIONS)
This adorable and addictive game is perfect for helping people disconnect and take breaks throughout a busy day. When I lived and worked as a therapist in New York City, I would often unwind at the end of a long day by playing this game during my subway ride home to Brooklyn. The object of the game is to cut swinging ropes at strategic times in order to make the candy tied to the end fall into the waiting mouth of a frog named Om Nom. The silly, lighthearted nature of the app really brings about a sense of joy.
TAIJITU - ($1.99)
Taijitu is all about balance. Without time limits or being forced to start over, this game calmly guides you through puzzles of shape and color. The goal is to use your instinct about balance and harmony to move shapes around until you have achieved a pleasing color scheme, at which point the game will move you on the next puzzle. This is the kind of game you can start and stop frequently. It can be played for 3 minutes while you’re on hold, or for 30 minutes on a lunch break. Engaging with the game in a mindful way can help you to center yourself and embrace peace.
LUMOSITY - (FREE OPTION AND PAID SUBSCRIPTION OPTION)
Our brains really like to be cognitively challenged. Engaging daily in a wide variety of diverse tasks that force us to be quick thinking and flexible is incredibly healthy for long term mental functioning, and this is exactly what Lumosity does. This app combines more than 25 different games that are meant to help us grow in skills such as memory, attention, etc. The games were created by a team of scientists and designers working together to create a stylish and enriching experience, which makes Lumosity a pleasure to play.
TANZEN - ($0.99)
If you enjoy puzzles, you’ll enjoy TanZen. This game features a Zen garden type aesthetic and a very straight forward goal; rotate and place the puzzle pieces so that they fill the shadowy shape in the center of the screen. The ability to move at a slow pace in addition to the calm design of the game makes TanZen the perfect way to calm a busy mind through mindfulness of the present moment.
SAM: SELF-HELP FOR ANXIETY MGMT - (FREE)
The app store describes SAM as a “friendly” app and it’s easy to see why; with a colorful design and gentle language, using SAM allows people to breathe a sigh of relief. The app offers many different features for anxiety management, including mood tracking tools, cognitive and physical relaxation exercises, and informational sections on 25 different topics. It also includes a closed network of SAM users who can message one another with tips or words of support.
In which of the 10 apps above are you most interested? Have you had experience using any of them already? Let’s talk about it in the comments!