We know we use screens too much and everyone I know is trying to cut down on their kids’ screen time. With good reason: too much screen time decreases our productivity and interferes with relationships.
But rather than labour beneath the guilt of ‘I should’ or ‘I shouldn’t’ when it comes to smartphones, I’ve put together the ultimate list of apps for a happiness boost. These apps are all great for mental health, happiness and well being. If we are going to be glued to our phone we may as well use the tech for good.
There are thousands of apps to choose from in the wellbeing space but not every app is created equal. I’ve rounded up those that have been developed either by or in consultation with psychologists and other mental health professionals. They are all based on research that is available in peer-reviewed publications. We can be confident that they do what they say they do and that they will help, not harm.
12 apps for a happiness boost
Apps for mindfulness and meditation
Calm is the perfect combination of science and beauty wrapped around simple tools for relaxation and meditation. You get guided meditations (beginners to advanced), Sleep Stories to aid slumber, breathing programs and music designed to enhance your mood.
I love its calming images and peaceful sounds.
Headspace entreats you to ‘treat your head right’ with bite-sized themed meditations on everything from stress to sleep. It’s quick, quirky and even offers SOS exercises in case of sudden meltdowns.
I love its simplicity and exploration of the science behind mindfulness.
Smiling Mind believe that looking after our mental health is just as important as our physical health but like anything new it takes practise. The app provides simple meditations for all ages, starting with just 10 minutes a day. This is a great app for kids or anyone new to the health giving benefits of simple meditation.
I love that it’s produced by an Australian not-for-profit in collaboration with psychologists and health professionals.
When I asked my psychologist colleagues which apps they use and recommend, Insight Timer was at the top of the list. More than just a guided meditation app, it offers music, talks and interviews with experts, audio books, groups and discussions. It also offers a series of interval timers with ambient sound for the practised meditator.
I love the community feel of this app. You open the home page to a map showing meditators across the globe.
More insights: 6 podcasts that will help us better understand our kids
Apps for mood and emotional intelligence
MoodKit is your personal CBT toolkit. It helps you to engage in mood-enhancing activities, identify and change unhealthy thinking, rate and chart mood across time, and create journal entries using templates designed to promote well-being.
I love that it’s developed by experts in mental health – two clinical psychologists.
In 2016 I was approached by PhD student, David Bakker from Monash University in Melbourne, asking if I would spread the word about MoodMission, an app for everyone who experiences occasional low moods or anxious feelings – and that means everyone. David and his psychologist/app developer colleagues were passionate about combining psychology with an app that both looked good and worked to help you manage your mood. Moodmission was born!
I love that it’s local AND developed by psychologists excited about technology.
Learning to identify and label your emotions is a critical step toward cultivating emotional intelligence. Mood Meter has been developed from decades of research from Yale into how we can master our emotions rather than let them master us!
You tell your Mood Meter app how you feel and build emotional intelligence that lasts a lifetime. The Mood Meter can help you become more mindful of how your emotions change throughout the day and how your emotions in turn affect your actions. It’s quick and fun and really makes you pay attention to how you’re feeling and what’s contributing to that.
I love it’s simple, colourful design. It’s fun to use!
Try this too: Can you actually choose happy?
Apps for happiness and wellbeing
Values are enduring beliefs and attitudes that guide our daily behaviour. In essence they reflect what we stand for in life, and who we want to be. People who know their values are often happier, more focused, and live a more meaningful life.
The Values Ink app is a simple card sort task that helps you explore and clarify your life values. You drag and drop the value descriptions that resonate most with you and you get a fab profile of what’s most important – and motivating – to you.
I love that it’s co-developed by my friend and colleague Dr Jo Mitchell from The Mind Room.
Uplifter trains you to develop a positive mindset through gratitude and positive psychology exercises. You answer some simple questions about your mood and well being and the app customises a series of simple exercises that you can undertake to help make you think and feel better. The exercises are drawn from leading neuroscience research and regular use leads to greater resilience and happier feelings.
I love that it covers gratitude, mood and thinking well in the one app and it explains key positive psychology concepts.
This fun little app offers a practical way to help you feel good and function well in the world. A little like Uplifter, you reflect on your well being, set activities to help you improve your happiness and track your progress.
I love that that the Five Ways to Wellbeing are the result of a two year review by 400 experts in psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience, education, and economics from across the world to examine current knowledge on mental health and wellbeing.
Apps for managing your tech
It would be remiss of me not to mention the apps that help us to curb our phone addiction. These come highly recommended by my psychologist colleagues…
Moment is an iOS app that automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone and iPad each day. If you’re using your phone too much, you can set daily limits on yourself and be notified when you go over. You can even force yourself off your device when you’re over your limit. Moment Family allows to manage your family’s screen time from your own phone and set up time for your entire family to be screen-free using family dinner time.
I love that you can quickly monitor and manage your phone use – and that the paid version allows you to exclude certain apps (my Spotify use was really messing with my stats!)
Another great app based on university-led research, Space is a personalised digital 60 day behaviour change program that helps you to take control of your phone use and create space in your life. It takes you through a quiz to understand the emotional triggers that prompt your phone use, then helps you to set goals to challenge your habits and change your behaviour.
I love the included ‘game’ features that allows you to collect achievements for hitting your goals and completing challenges as the program progresses. You build a beautiful galaxy over 60 days, as you create more space in your life.
Do you use apps for a happiness boost?
Image by James Garcia