Deep breaths, everyone. Because, almost two whole years in, this pesky pandemic doesn’t look to be letting up. Many of us are still working from home, we saw Christmas curbed once again and New Year celebrations were more fizzle than firework. So we could all be forgiven for feeling some stress.
But, while various tensions, traumas and anxieties may be putting a dampener on your days, there are tools out there to help with the pressure. And many of the most useful can be found in the palm of your hand. From exercises to help you breathe more mindfully to guided meditation sessions, these diverse, helpful apps are dedicated to boosting your wellness. Here are seven of the best…
The wellness one: Calm
A former ‘App of the Year’, Calm has had over 50 million downloads and 700,000 five-star reviews — which should tell you much about its effectiveness. Offering a full wellbeing programme, created by mindfulness expert Tamara Levitt, Calm aims to make you the most relaxed version of yourself possible.
There are guided meditations, audio mindfulness masterclasses, breathing exercises, low-intensity stretching workouts, playlists to help you focus — and even bedtime stories read by former Gentleman’s Journal cover star Matthew McConaughey. It’s a soothing cup of camomile tea, in app form.
The contemplative one: Meditation Studio
There’s some serious science behind this one. Back in 2018, the Mediation Studio app was sold to tech brand Muse, producers of world-leading brain-sensing headbands. And these bits of futuristic kit — which use real-time biofeedback to help you refocus — helped to inform the meditation sessions available on this app.
The real masterstroke, however, is how these sessions are organised. Some are sorted into emotional categories, such as ‘Joy’ or ‘Stress’. Others are grouped into situational collections, like ‘Travel’ and ‘Outdoors’. There’s even a way of filtering using your job, whether that be ‘Entrepreneur’ or ‘First Responder’. It’s a way of tailoring meditation to you — a timesaver; a lifesaver.
The rewarding one: Sattva
Named for a Hindu school of philosophy, Sattva is an app that harnesses the psychological qualities of positivity, truth and serenity. From mantras to mudras (hand gestures to release blocked energy), there’s plenty to be found among the meditations on its easy-to-use interface.
But our favourite feature of the free app? The trophies. Unlike many of the other apps on this list, which decide not to set ‘tasks’ or ‘challenges’ for fear of inducing further stress in their users, Sattva uses in-app achievements as a way to reinforce and strengthen your resolve. Relaxation through fortification.
The oxygenating one: Breathwrk
Never underestimate the basics. Breathwrk, as its vowel-skipping name suggests, is a tool used to train your breathing. Whether you’re looking to alleviate stress and anxiety, fall asleep fast or improve your energy or endurance, breathing is the key to reducing symptoms of many conditions, from depression to PTSD.
And Breathwrk makes balancing your breathing easy, with a bold, simply designed interface and a library of exercises used by psychotherapists, olympic athletes, sleep doctors, Navy Seals and neuroscientists. Just 60 seconds a day, and 2022 will suddenly seem a much easier place to be.
The anxiety-alleviating one: Moodnotes
You may scoff at the thought of journaling — but the practice has been proven, time and time again, to help us relax. Writing down your thoughts, fears and feelings can help you reassess and approach problems from different perspectives. And there are few apps better suited to enabling this catharsis than Moodnotes.
It’s one of hundreds of journaling apps available, but Moodnotes is set apart by its broad-strokes approach to the concept. If you don’t have the time or inclination to express your thoughts in writing, the app allows you to scan your face to ‘input’ your emotions. Add this to the mood-tracking and extensive library of self-awareness articles, and this is the ultimate journaling experience.
The sleeping one: Headspace
Founded over a decade ago by one-time Buddhist Monk Andy Puddicombe, Headspace, one of the earliest apps of its kind, remains a crowdpleaser. Its clean, whimsical graphics are welcoming, and it will ground you in the fundamentals of meditation, with a particular focus on breathing exercises and reminders for you to mentally scan up and down your body.
The library of lessons is both varied and accomplished, with courses such as ‘Politics without Panic’ and ‘Transforming Anger’. But the best section is for sleep: the ‘Wind Downs’ will mentally prepare you for slumber, while ’Nighttime SOS’ is a set of exercises for when you wake up prematurely, which may come in handy during the rocky WFH times in which we now live.
The organisational one: Asana
This isn’t your usual relaxation fare. In fact, the thought of meticulously planning out many days and weeks in advance may induce even more stress in some people. But, for those who are calmed by routine, Asana is the perfect daily organiser to streamlines and destress your (especially working) weeks.
It does everything. The app can monitor your workload in real-time, it can sync with your other team members so everyone is on the same page, it can streamline untold processes and set strategic goals. And it displays all of this all on a beautiful, colourful timeline. We feel calmer already.