Looking for an app that can help ease the symptoms of anxiety, depression or psychological stress? We’ve rounded up the six best apps for mental health
When I first moved to London six months ago, a gnawing knot in my stomach travelled with me. Being new to the city and not knowing a single person was bringing back feelings that I recognised as anxiety. I was always on edge, irritable (well, more than usual) and an overwhelming feeling of dread was weighing me down wherever I went – at the end of the day, I would often melt into a puddle of uncontrollable tears for what felt like no reason at all and I would toss and turn at night as thoughts rattled around my mind. Luckily with time, the feelings subsided and for now, at least, that tummy knot has untied. But I know that I’m not alone in having felt that way.
One in four people will suffer from mental health problems in the UK in any given year
According to The Mental Health Foundation, one in four people will suffer from mental health problems in the UK in any given year. And while mental health problems are the largest burden of disease in the UK (28 percent of the burden compared to 16 percent each for cancer and heart attack) help is not always available. And with Theresa May’s claim she’ll focus on young people’s stability as well as Stormzy’s new album addressing mental health issues it seems that everyone is starting to realise that we really need to take steps to tackle mental health.
Mental Health services in the UK are overstretched, waiting lists are long and some parts of the country even lack specialist services. And sometimes – as was the case with me – it’s important to just take a little time out to breathe and to deal with things.
Now, I’m not about to say that an app is going to solve all of your problems but it could make a small difference if you’re struggling. For me, taking up yoga was a huge stress reliever and apps promoting mindfulness and meditation can help to unwind. Healthista has rounded up 5 of the best apps to help with mental health.
Best for meditation: Headspace
I’m an incredibly impatient person and the idea of meditating completely overwhelms me but my boyfriend has been raving about the power of meditation so I’ve promised to take ten minutes out each day to practice. Science is proving the benefits of meditation on mental health as growing research is showing regular practice can have a physical effect on the brain – actually causing areas associated with learning to grow, and the part generating stress responses to shrink.
Headspace walks you through guided meditations which takes the pressure off knowing what to do. The app starts off with Take10 programme which teaches you the basics of meditation in just 10 minutes a day. Then you can advance once you’ve mastered the foundations. The terms ‘meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’ get bandied around a lot and can seem really intimidating but this app proves that they really don’t have to be that scary.
Meditations start at two minutes but can go all the way to 60 minutes. You can do guided or unguided and the app has daily individual sessions as well as future sessions that you can download to use anytime – which is helpful if you want to practice on your travels. Plus the app sends you intermittent ‘mindfulness buzzers’ throughout the day to keep you in check with yourself and sends reports on your progress. Even Emma Watson speaks highly of the app saying ‘it’s kind of genius’.
Best to help you sleep: Relax Melodies
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than one-half of Insomnia cases are related to anxiety, depression or psychological stress. And while it won’t work for everyone, listening to relaxing sounds while you drift off could go some way to ease the stress of trying to fall asleep at night (Healthista intern Amanda Lundgren found listening to ASMR videos on YouTube was the only way to cure her insomnia).
Getting enough sleep can help tackle stress anxiety but mental health issues can impact your ability to shut down at the end of the day. Relax Melodies offers 108 sleep sounds, white noise and melodies you can mix to create your unique bliss sound. You can save your creations and set a timer for how long they play to help you fall asleep.
You can also use relax melodies when you just need to chill out and aren’t ready for bed yet – Relax Melodies can play in the background while you use other apps. Users that have reviewed the app have even suggested using it while meditating.
Best for self-help: Depression CBT Self-Help Guide
Learning about mental health and techniques to cope are a crucial part of recovering from and coping with mental illness. Depression CBT Self-Help Guide is among one of the most positively rated apps on depression. The app helps you learn more about mental health issues, has emotion training audio to help you achieve calming states and also helps you to develop coping mechanisms. Plus it includes articles on depression that help to educate you about mental health.
The natural management of depression involves understanding the condition and the factors that contribute to the symptoms. Learning to manage stress in your life and engage in self-care behaviours can improve your symptoms. The app comes with a screening test that helps to monitor the severity of your depression which can then help you work out the best ways to approach your mental health. A cognitive thought diary teaches you to challenge stressful thinking and provides positive feedback.
The app does recognise that it can only do so much and advises that if at any time you believe that you may be harmful to yourself you should immediately obtain professional assistance or go to an emergency room. And urges anyone with depression to consult a professional.
Best app to track your mood: Mood Panda
Ruby Wax and M&S are teaming up to launch mental health drop-ins where people can come together and discuss their mental health. Despite schemes like this and even with more and more celebrities opening coming forward as having mental health issues it can still be incredibly difficult to open up about problems.
Much like Ruby Wax’s drop-in, MoodPanda aims to create a space where people feel safe to openly talk about their mental health and receive support from the online anonymous community. Here users can express themselves and other users can offer encouragement, support and advice. It’s a space where people can share their stories as well as track their mood on a daily basis both as a cathartic exercise and as a way to help them recognise the rhythms and patterns of their mood.
The app also comes with privacy modes so that nobody else can see your mood but you can also read everyone else’s mood – it can help to know that you’re not alone in your feelings.
Best for unwinding: Colourfly
I used to laugh at my mum when she told me that whenever she has a quiet moment she opens up her electronic tablet and draws pictures. But with the growing popularity of Mindfulness colouring books, it might seem that she’s on to something. Letting loose our creative side can be a great wait to unwind. Art therapy can be used to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, dementia and anxiety. Many of these mental health problems create an inability to focus and colouring in forces us to focus our attentions.
Enter Colourfly, an app that describes itself as ‘the secret against anxiety’. The app is super simple and easy to work and basically does what it says on the tin, allows you to let your creative side out, colour in and unwind. You can experiment with beautiful palettes and share the images you create with your family and friends. It’s a therapeutic colouring book in your pocket that is there whenever you really just need to take a step back and chill out.
Best for yoga: Down Dog
I’m not particularly flexible, let’s just say when it comes to yoga I’m not about to try and compete with the likes of Tara Stiles but I can’t help but feel infinitely less stressed and anxious when I’ve completed a yoga session than I do before I started. Discovering yoga in my final year of university saved me during exam season and even now, whenever I’m feeling a little down? To downward facing dog I go.
While there are a million and one yoga apps, Down Dog is one of the top rated on the app store. They describe themselves as providing a studio-like yoga experience in the comfort of your own home. And the app is super easy to set up in your bedroom, living room, I’ve even used it with my sister in a hotel room. Plus each time you practice, the app creates a brand new vinyasa yoga sequence so that you never run out of content. The app supplies clear vocal instructions and matching music and is super easy to use with uncomplicated moves.