4 Mental Wellness Apps to Improve Happiness Virtually

AlexandraSaper

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It’s no surprise that the mental health of people all over the world has been suffering in 2020. In a year of an unprecedented global health crisis, unemployment, physical distance from loved ones, and a contentious political climate, many of us have been struggling to stay healthy, happy, and effective in our daily lives.

First of all, you should take some comfort in knowing that you aren’t alone. The isolation, loneliness, fears of the future, financial stress, and feelings of lack of motivation and purpose are about as normal as anything can be in 2020. So take a second, stop reading this, and say to yourself right now: “Hey, you’re doing great.”

Now, I also want you to know that although it is perfectly normal to feel like you’re in an emotional, mental, and productivity rut, it doesn’t have to stay like this.

In the age of technology and social media, there are thankfully so many ways we can access positive resources that will benefit our mental wellness even from the comfort (or government-imposed lockdowns) of our homes. And even better, is that many of these resources are completely free, or offered at a very low cost! Which means that even if your budget is tighter than ever right now (I hear you!), your mental health doesn’t need to suffer. 

Here are 4 mental wellness apps that you can have access to anytime, anywhere, as long as you have a smartphone.

Calm App

I started using this app when dealing with a bout of anxiety this past summer, that seemed to flare up in its fiery glory right about when I laid down to sleep at night. My mind would start racing, my dreams would be vivid and chaotic (even becoming full-blown nightmares at times), and I’d wake up feeling even more stressed and exhausted than before I went to sleep.

The Calm App has a handful of really excellent sleep meditations with varying lengths, that can lull you to sleep peacefully as you focus on relaxation, gratitude, or simply quieting the mind. You can also select one of the “white noise” bedtime tracks, with soothing sounds like ocean waves or train tracks to drown out any chaotic or negative thoughts as you try to sleep.

Cost: You can try the Calm App with a 7-day free trial, and then it’s only $12.99/month, $59.99/year, or $299.99 for a lifetime subscription to access the entire Calm catalog. To put it into perspective, the monthly plan will cost you less than 50 cents per day, and the yearly plan will come to about 16 cents per day. That is well-worth waking up feeling happy and rested each morning. There are also some great guided meditations on the Calm YouTube channel, completely free!

Waking Up App

I was recently introduced to this meditation app by a friend and have been making my way through the free introductory course on meditation. If you’re new to meditation, or you want to learn about the core techniques and theories behind meditation, this is a great place to start.

The Waking Up App is developed by Sam Harris, a world-famous neuroscientist, philosopher, and New York Times best-selling author. What differentiates the Waking Up App from other meditation apps like Calm, is that the focus with meditation training and guidance here is less about reducing stress or anxiety in the moment, and more about unlocking the mind in a way that will transform your mind-body connection every day, forever.

The Waking Up not only offers guided meditations, but also interesting talks and conversations with experts in the field, and lessons on subjects like gratitude or combating boredom.

Cost: The Waking Up app offers a free trial for 30 days, after which you’ll need to pay $99.99 to access the full content of the app for one year. However, Harris’s philosophy is that money should never be the reason someone can’t access the Waking Up App and begin their life-changing meditation journey. If you aren’t satisfied with the app at any time, you can get a full refund no-questions-asked; and if you can’t afford the app, you can send them an email to get a free subscription. 

Shine App

This meditation and emotional wellness app might be refreshing for some of you who find the mainstream world of meditation to be a bit too preachy, privileged, or life-coach, and that’s just not for you.

The Shine App was founded by a Black woman and half-Japanese woman who felt the same way, and wanted to create a space that spoke to the experiences of people of color, women, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender individuals who aren’t typically represented in spaces of mental wellness and psychology.

The team behind Shine includes therapists, teachers, and other experts who are 80% BIPOC. On the app you’ll find guided meditations, as well as bedtime stories and sounds, and a community forum where you can connect with others on the app and find support and tips from other experts and users. You can also sign up for a Shine text — which will send an encouraging message or quote to your phone every day.

Cost: The standard costs for the Shine App are $4.50/month if you pay the $53.99 annual fee at once, or $11.99/month for the monthly subscription. However, they are currently offering a 40% off deal for the annual subscription, and are offering a free annual membership to healthcare workers, essential workers, and those who have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

BetterHelp

Personally, I think every person on planet earth would benefit from professional counseling. I meet with my therapist (virtually) once per week and it has been a huge help as I navigate the stressors of life during the pandemic, relationships, and personal growth goals.

BetterHelp is the world’s largest 100% online counseling service, offering professional counseling services from licensed, accredited, experienced counselors who can help with a range of issues including anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, relationships, family, and other life events that may benefit from some professional guidance.

You can specify your preferences when choosing a counselor, and can communicate via messaging, chat, phone, or video call — whatever method you’re most comfortable with. You can send messages to your counselor at any time, or use the app to schedule a live session at a time that works for you (either on your computer, tablet, or phone). Feel free to meet privately with your counselor, or with a significant other for couples counseling sessions.

Cost: BetterHelp rates range from $60 to $80 per week (billed every 4 weeks), which is substantially less than traditional in-office counseling. 

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There are, of course, hundreds of additional mental wellness apps available for those of us who want a bit of help or guidance as we navigate an especially trying year. However, I hope these apps can help get you started on your virtual mental wellness journey, because being quarantined shouldn’t mean being isolated from the help we all sometimes need to be happy and healthy.

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American travel photographer and writer, based on the beautiful island of Bali. Two years ago, I left my job as a Washington DC lawyer, sold everything I owned, and booked a one-way ticket to Indonesia to turn my creative dreams into reality. I have traveled to 60 countries, have worked with major airlines, luxury hotels, tourism boards, and fashion/adventure goods companies. When I’m not working or traveling, I spend my free time writing, doing yoga, learning to surf, or swimming at my favorite beaches in Uluwatu in south Bali.

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