[App Fridays] These 10 apps will ensure mental wellbeing in the time of coronavirus
Aristotle famously said, “Man by nature is a social animal”. The human brain is wired to connect, which is why social distancing – the only present panacea to coronavirus – and quarantine go against our very nature.
Multiple research has shown that, even in “normal” times, loneliness and isolation can be “twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity”.
With COVID-19 putting millions of people across the world under house arrest, multiple challenges around mental health are emerging.
A recent report by Blind, a US-based anonymous professional network with 3.2 million verified users, stated that 52.9 percent of respondents across organisations such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, LinkedIn, and Walmart were facing loneliness during work from home and in the age of social distancing. Close to 56.4 percent had been “feeling anxiety during WFH and social distancing” and 53 percent said they were experiencing mental health issues.
There’s no sign on how long the coronavirus-led confinement will continue, but it’s vital to tackle this mental health issue alongside the physical health crisis.
Multiple studies show that the practice of staying in the present moment and experiencing thoughts, feelings, and emotions without judgment can make us more resilient to stress, more compassionate towards others, and increase our ability to focus. Most of us know the benefits of meditation, but adopting the practice isn’t easy.
Despite the glut of apps, it’s not easy to find an app that suits your personality. We tried several apps for meditation and mindfulness, and bring you the best of tried and tested apps for mental wellbeing in the time of COVID-19.
Wysa, co-founded by Jo Aggarwal in 2015, is an AI-enabled mental health chatbot designed by therapists, coaches, users, and AI experts. It gives users an anonymous platform to vent, reflect, and build emotional resistance. The app is rated 4.7 on Google Play Store and has crossed one million downloads so far.
Wysa creates personalised toolkits drawn from evidence-based self-help techniques from CBT, mindfulness, and life coaching. It also meets the NHS UK's DCB 0129 Standard of Clinical Safety.
Wysa help you with its health buddy and well-being tracker. Like a friend, the chatbot suggests spiritual meditation, mindfulness audios, and other self-help tools based on your need. It builds your personalised toolkit with tools for coping better with depression, anxiety, sleep issues, and grief. The best part? It is free to a large extent.
Its therapy-based techniques and conversations make for a very calming therapy chat app, whether you're looking to cope better with mental disorders or just manage stress. The friendly penguin mascot makes the chatbot more appealing and approachable. If you pay, you can avail guidance from a human coach.
So far, Wysa has featured more than 80 million conversations with more than 1.2 million users across 30 countries. The Wysa app is available on Android and iOS.
This is a personal favourite. Insight Timer is a free meditation app, which promises to “calm your mind, reduce anxiety, manage stress, enhance deep sleep, and improve happiness”.
The app stands out, for not only its quality sessions, but for being able to provide short meditation exercises on the go to inculcate the habit. The app offers around 24,000 free meditation routines to choose from – under categories like guided and unguided meditations, calming music, talks, sleep, beginners, stress etc.
It has a large free library of guided meditations by top meditation and mindfulness experts, neuroscientists, psychologists, and teachers from Stanford, Harvard, the University of Oxford and more. It features music tracks from renowned artists and also has talks by Sadhguru.
On the App Store, Insight Timer says it adds more than 100 free guided meditations every day. One has the option of choosing routines with spans of less than five minutes to over 30 minutes. Customisations include music and a female or male voice for audio. You can choose from high spiritual or religious content, and can filter by benefit, practice, and even origin of meditation.
We used a host of meditation apps but found such expansive customisation available only on Insight Timer. The app has courses such as “how to restore sound sleep”, and “getting over overeating”. Basic courses are free, but a Rs 5,000-per-year subscription unlocks a special catalogue of courses and will allow you to download meditation routines offline. This is a must-have app. Insight Timer has a 4.8 rating on Play Store and has been downloaded more than one million times. The app is available on App store as well.
InnerHour offers a range of clinical tools and self-help psychological activities, topical content and webinars, bot-based check-ins and voice/video therapy sessions in seven Indian languages. Launched by Dr Amit Malik and Neha Kirpal about two years ago, it focuses on providing self-help AI-based tools, personalised programmes, support communities, and a step-by-step care approach.
It uses algorithms and data/intelligence with the guidance of trained therapists to identify unique user needs and create highly personalised programmes suitable for each user. Users have the option to engage with a live therapist via text/voice/video, through a network of 150 therapists across India.
In addition to InnerHour’s programmes for depression, stress, and anxiety, the startup launched a coronavirus-focused programme, available for free.
Stop, Breathe & Think
Stop, Breathe & Think (SBT), one of the Editor's Choice apps under the Health & Fitness Category in Play Store, is a digital wellness platform that functions like a personalised mindfulness coach, offering activities for all levels for kids, teens, and adults. The app, available for both iOS and Android devices, is rated 4.7 on Google’s Play Store and has more than one million downloads.
On its website, the company states that Stop, Breathe & Think’s mission is to help kids, teens and young adults “build the emotional strength to tackle life’s ups and downs”. Most reviews say the app is helpful during stressful situations, panic attacks, overwhelming depression, or when someone just needs bedtime relaxation.
We feel this is the answer to your prayers if you’re looking for a meditation app that fits your lifestyle, especially for beginners. If you are extremely busy, stressed, and keen to start/maintain the practice of meditation, we would recommend you download this app. It’s sure to provide you with a quick, effective, and relaxing few minutes, no matter the time of the day.
Launched in 2012, Headspace, which employs gamification to provide guided meditation courses and improve mindfulness and wellbeing, has surged in popularity. Headspace was started by entrepreneur Richard Pierson and former Tibetan Buddhist monk, writer, public speaker, and health advocate Andy Puddicombe.
Split across various day-based series as well as many singles sessions, Headspace combines elements of calming and insightful meditation, encouraging users to take a minute (or 10) to find a moment of calm and peace. A library puts together all the content on the app; a lot of it is available to paying users only.
Headspace has received a lot of media attention since its launch, being covered on various platforms in the US and UK, as well as endorsements from celebrities like Martha Stewart. The app has also been used in several clinical trials and has been found to contribute significantly to improved wellbeing and reduction in stress, anxiety, etc.
We found it extremely useful to calm frayed nerves and reduce mental stress in the middle of hectic workdays. So, the next time stress gives you sleepless nights and you find yourself unable to cope with the mental demands of your life, fire up Headspace to take three to 10 minutes for yourself and rediscover inner peace. Your mind – and body – will thank you for it.
Calm for better sleep
With more than 10 million downloads on Google Play, Calm provides guided meditation techniques that teach mindfulness. In addition, it narrates short stories in a soothing voice to help one sleep better.
The app has plenty of sleep stories, breathing programmes, masterclasses, and relaxing music. The guided meditation sessions are available in lengths of 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, or 25 minutes so you can choose the perfect length to fit with your schedule.
Spiritual Transformation Daily
From keeping a diary and making little notes with positive quotes to practising yoga, people are constantly on the lookout for activities that would help them find that elusive inner peace during these testing times.
Finding a sense of calm and establishing spirituality as an everyday presence in one’s life is no easy task if there is no peace within. While there is no one way to awaken spirituality, meditation and breathing exercises have been used from time immemorial by people to become more mindful, aware, and centred.
Started by Ludhiana-based Dailypedia Bliss in 2017, this app helps you wake up each day with a brand-new thought to make life more spiritual and meaningful.
While listening to this app’s serene meditative music in the background, one can share positive quotes on social media through its messaging tools. One can also set alarms to receive daily notifications for quotes.
Available both on App store and Google Play, the app has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Play. However, the installs are merely 10,000+. But the app will be the right fit if you are asking too many questions and are worried about things that can’t be explained.
Vent with HearMe
If the forced isolation is adding to your loneliness and taking a toll on your mental health, HearMe is the kind and patient listener you’ve been looking for. It lies somewhere between a friend and a therapist, and lets you anonymously connect with an empathetic HearMe Listener within a minute at no cost.
HearMe is available round the clock, and you can discuss anything from relationships to work troubles. It also claims to be LGBTQIA+ friendly and lets you voice identity issues too. The conversations happen in real time, guided by trained listeners on chat. HearMe promises complete confidentiality and gives you access to past sessions through a personal dashboard to monitor your progress.
Simple Habit, launched in November 2016, has more than one million downloads and a rating of 4.7 stars on Google’s Play store. The app also earned a Google Play Award for most ‘Standout Well-Being App’ in 2018.
Simple Habit is primarily made for people with busy schedules, even if at home. Because let's be real, household chores can be a bit too much for us. Five minutes of meditation is all you need to calm your nerves and release stress.
Top mindfulness experts at Google and the world’s best teachers to former monks guide you through meditation on this app. The app claims to have meditations that can help in depression, improve focus, increase self-awareness, help you become an effective leader, and, to top it all, be happier.
This interesting app lets users learn life-changing skills in just a few minutes a day. User can find lessons and tools on astral projection, lucid dreaming, remote viewing, dreams, meditation, subconscious and more. This app explores consciousness, as well as spiritual and psychic self beyond wildest imagination. It has interesting sessions on different topics like body, spirit, and the mind.
The best part is that the sessions are served in small bits, like five-minute lessons. The app has a set of tools such as creating your own OBE (Out of Body Experience) technique, meditation tracker, habit assistant, etc, which help in practising and improving your psychic and spiritual skills, from intuition to lucid dreams.
Mind lets users keep a detailed track of dreams, lucid dreams, psychic visions, spiritual experiences, astral projections, and more with the help of a journal and see how you improve over time.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)