Have you ever thought about using an app to help improve your mental wellbeing? It’s not necessarily for everyone – for some people cutting screen time is an important route to wellbeing in itself – but if you’re not trying to break up with your phone, it could work for you.
It’s a strategy for mental wellbeing recommended by the NHS, which is currently trialling a new service called Apps Library, featuring apps that have been assessed and categorised specifically for mental health.
An app is not a replacement for treatment if you’re seriously struggling with your mental health – Hilda Burke, psychotherapist and author of The Phone Addiction Workbook, recommends seeking professional help in the first instance. However, in some cases, she says: “If someone can get some help or comfort from a therapy app that would not otherwise be available, then that’s definitely a positive thing.”
With that in mind, we asked experts and HuffPost readers which apps they have found most useful in their quest for a peaceful mind.
This app comes highly recommended by multiple readers. It offers guided meditations, animations, articles and videos – with a key focus on de-stressing your life. Headspace has also partnered with the popular Nike Run app, providing guided mindful runs for those looking to unwind.
This app is especially recommended for people who are new to meditation. “I use lots more expensive meditation programmes, but Headspace is very calming and it’s good to go back-to-basics,” says reader Mark Slight, a personal trainer and lifestyle coach. He enjoys the calming voice on the app and praises the occasional video explanation, which he says is good for beginners. Ally Mogg, a senior communications manager, also swears by the app: “It’s nice to use, focuses on positivity and has really clear language without too much of the spiritual waffle.” Personal trainer Anthony Mayatt says he always recommends the app to clients to help them relax.
The drawback is that Headspace is not cheap, costing £9.99 per month – unless you can stump up for an annual subscription, which works out at about £5.99 a month.
Sleep and meditation app Calm gives users access to hundreds of hours of guided meditation covering anxiety, stress, sleep, and more. There are bonus features: users can access bedtime stories to help them drift off at night (Stephen Fry talking about lavender fields will soon get you snoozing); there are relaxing music tracks; a series of videos encourages gentle stretching and movement. Masterclass sessions are added monthly – think of it like a mental wellbeing podcast starring world renowned experts.
“Calm is really great, I’m a big fan,” says reader Nicole Barbosa, who works in PR. “As soon as I select it on my phone, I know I’m going to be transported to a happier place. I love the nature soundtracks and the navigation is spot on.”
It’s not free, but you get lots of content for the price. Subscription costs £34.99 per year after one week’s free trial – or about £3 a month.
This requires some commitment: it guides you through a 50-day introductory course before unlocking access to daily meditations. You join Sam Harris, who has practiced meditation for over 30 years, has a degree in philosophy and a PhD in neuroscience.
“The waking up course is my absolute favourite, better than any other meditation app I’ve used,” says reader Marc Alexander, who runs a football podcast. “I discovered it through Sam’s podcasts that I subscribed to last year, so made a commitment.” Alexander has also tried the Calm app and found that while it did help distract him from his depression, it didn’t get him to focus on the “here and now”, which he says this does fantastically.
A subscription costs £6.49 per month, or £49.99 for the year.
Multiple readers recommended this app, including Joseph Croft, who is an NHS CBT therapist in London, and often recommends it to his patients. The app, which is free, provides daily tools for stress, anxiety, and depression – it’s based on cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness meditation.
“I use it with my clients as it helps track mood – what you were doing, when and why, and helps them to notice patterns,” he explains. “It also reminds you, and keeps the check-in element often needed when therapy is over or you aren’t finding time for self care or reflection.”
For further information and support:
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)