Updated: May 27
Even when we know what we should do differently for optimal health and wellness, it’s not always easy to be sure where, or how, to start. Luckily, the wonderful world of technology allows us access to dozens of self-care and self-help apps.
Most only take seconds to download. Some even offer free features. These are my ten favorite choices, all of which help cultivate tools for self-love and self-compassion, then show us how to put them into practice.
1. Breeze Mood Tracker
The Breeze app aims to help users develop better emotional awareness, and learn how to better identify their triggers. Ranking number 110 in health and fitness apps, reviewers have praised Breeze for its user-friendly format and wide range of free tools. Though subscriptions are needed for full use of the programs, unpaid users can still complete several activities a day, including but not limited to making a journal entry and choosing a daily mood.
In order to give users insight into popular thought distortions, and teach them how to identify struggle areas in their thoughts or behaviors, Breeze also offers multiple in-app thought trackers:
Cognitive Distortions tracker
Negative thoughts tracker
The trackers should help users develop techniques to counteract negative emotional responses. Combining theories from cognitive behavioral psychotherapy, it operates under the notion that even minor, subconscious (automatic) negative thoughts can influence our moods and psychological well-being. Since self-compassion also relies on changing stigmatized thoughts, Breeze would be a great app to use for identifying patterns antithetical to self-love. It would also help keep track of personal progress and growth.
The Calm app first launched in 2012 by founders Alex Tew and Michael Acton Smith. Available on IOS and Android, Calm has won multiple awards across the Apple and Google Play platforms. With over 1.5 million five star reviews and 100 million downloads, it’s been dubbed the world’s “happiest app” by the Center of Humane Technology. While the app is free to download and certain programs are accessible without a subscription, subscribers are granted full access to the application’s content library.
Many use Calm for the extensive selection of meditation programs. The app offers guided or unguided sessions, which are available at various lengths. This makes the meditation tool user friendly to every type of meditator, whether just beginning or a seasoned professional. Similarly, whether a user only has five extra minutes to spare, or twenty-five minutes to dedicate, they should still be able to find sessions that meet their immediate needs. Users can choose one to help start their day, or unwind with at the end of their day, whichever is most conducive to their mental wellness plan. Their list of meditation topics are extensive, including but not limited to:
Focus and Concentration
Calm has also been voted the best app for mindfulness, which is one of the cornerstone components of self-compassion. It also offers body scan activities, which are very beneficial to the self-compassion journey. If you’ve already read my prior post, Self-compassion: Scary Reasons We Battle Ourselves For Love, you may recall that body scans allow us to become more intimate and comfortable with our bodies, no matter what condition we may be in. That comfortability ultimately allows us to recognize our weaknesses as part of the human condition, rather than points of contention or shame.
3. Daily Quote
The Daily Quote app sends users a daily therapeutic thought. It was designed to help others overcome adversities, persevere through hardships, and work towards wellness goals. Though (currently) only available on the IOS platform, it still has over 61 thousand reviews. It’s free to download and use, but also has premium features that require in-app purchases. Users can also opt for subscriptions. Monthly and yearly options are available.
Daily Quote also gives users the option to receive audio quotes, which are delivered via Siri. Siri can also be used for account personalization, but only on the app’s basic features. While it’s a paid feature, it makes the app unique and more accessible for those who aren't able to read. Users can choose quotes from several categories, all geared towards motivation and inspiration.
An app that offers customizable positivity is ideal for those working on their self-compassion skills, primarily because users can set their quotes to address struggle specific areas. If they’re struggling with self-esteem, they can set their quotes to address self-empowerment. If forgiveness is more of an issue, they can focus on compassion. So forth and so on, until all areas have been addressed.
Happify is available on IOS and Android platforms. In addition to articles, mood lifting activities, and evidence-based exercises, it offers games that combat negative thoughts and reduce stress levels. While free to download and use, a subscription is needed to access the more advanced features. A website version of their program is also available.
Founded in New York City in 2012, the Happify app adds a science-based element of fun to the user’s mental health and wellness plan. Creators Tomer Ben-Kiki, Ofer Leidner, and Andy Parsons shared the belief that technology should improve a person’s overall quality of life. They combined recorded data from positive psychology studies - a topic I hope to cover in future blog posts - with their existing skill sets in gaming and technology, essentially bringing the science of positive psychology to life in an enjoyable (yet practical) way. The result was the Happify app, which they define as a 21st-century approach to building a well-balanced life.
When considering how Happify can benefit one’s quest towards self-compassion, it’s important to look at their website’s mission statement:
“We now know that happiness is a skill that can be strengthened, and we want to make the benefits of scientific discovery readily available and usable… in an interactive way… we're here to empower you to take control of your emotional life, and we're giving you the tools to do it.”
Since self-compassion requires a great deal of emotional awareness, Happify seems like an excellent choice to help sharpen one’s intuition. Sharper intuition allows for easier recognition of counterproductive thoughts. In turn, changing the counterproductive thought patterns allows more room for self-acceptance and forgiveness, both of which are needed to make sure self-compassion thrives.
Headspace lists the app's primary goal as improving the health and happiness of the world. Available on IOS and Android, it has millions of users in over 190 countries. The founder, Andy Puddicombe, spent ten years as a Buddhist monk. During that time, he travelled the world to complete extensive meditation training. At the end of his commitment, his focus was on teaching meditation and mindfulness to as many people as possible. He wanted to do so, however, in a way that highlighted meditation’s practicality and redefined the mystical stigmas surrounding it.
Initially launched in 2010 as an events company, they quickly realized that event participants desired to put the practices learned to use in their day-to-day lives. The Headspace team then decided to make their techniques available online, so more people could consistently benefit. Thus, the Headspace app was launched. The app offers guided meditations, illustrations, articles, and videos, all dedicated to the art of meditation. Like many other apps, it's subscription based, but also offers some features for free.
Headspace offers many advantages for those seeking to put self-compassion into daily practice. The benefits of daily meditation are vast, but among them are stronger self-awareness and acceptance. Meditation heavily relies on being attuned to one’s body. It brings awareness to emotional areas that many attempt to suppress. It teaches a person not only how to live in harmony with negative emotions, but how to restructure their physical responses to those emotions. In doing so, it fosters positive self-discipline techniques, often becoming a point of release for the meditator, rather than a chore. These are also end goals when mastering the art of self-compassion; in particular, making the practice part of one’s subconscious, rather than requiring a conscious effort to implement it.
6. I Am
The I Am app teaches users how to empower themselves through the use of positive self-talk. Though it offers free services on IOS and Android, it’s considered a subscription based app with in-app purchases. Users can customize their daily intentions and send daily reminders to themselves, essentially creating a personalized manifestation tool. Largely based on Buddha’s notion that we become what we believe, I Am seeks to flip the script on one’s negative mindset. Consistently affirming more constructive thoughts makes it easier to recognize where negative patterns are holding them back or bringing them down.
The app also aims to build resilience during trying times, allowing users to press forward without becoming too deeply immersed in self-critical thought patterns. The more positive self-talk is practiced, the stronger self-compassion inadvertently becomes. Reminding oneself of the positives helps counteract the impact of the negatives, often allowing for less self-scrutiny and more self-love.
7. The Mighty
The Mighty is my favorite resource for self-love and overall wellness awareness. This free app is available to download on IOS and Android. Yet unlike most of the others on the list, it’s much more than an app. Per their mission statement, the Mighty is a digital health community created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities. There’s also a website dedicated to improving the lives of those struggling with diseases, disorders, and disabilities. This enables users to access a lot of content without a download.
The founder, Mike Porath, wanted to create a social media company that focused on helping people. After two of his children were diagnosed with severe health issues, he promised his wife they were going to make something good come out of something terrible. Eventually, the Mighty was born, resulting in a remarkable resource for others dealing with hard situations. One of Mike’s goals was to create a space where others struggling could imagine a brighter, richer, deeper life. With over 2 million registered users and 90 million article shares per month, they are doing just that.
Some resources offered on the Mighty are illness specific support groups, community check ins, stories from others struggling, and health trackers.
Every tool reiterates the notion that imperfect people are still deserving of love and support. Many of their featured articles and posts are aimed to provide hope for the hopeless and validate the chronically ill. As I have chronic Lyme disease and a few other secondary illnesses, all of which don’t have a cure, I can attest to just how successful the Mighty team is at orchestrating Mike’s vision.
When I was left without the support I needed, I was provided immense comfort reading chronic illness articles from others who understood the struggle.
Connecting with others in similar situations reinforces the part of self-compassion that calls for embracing our flaws and accepting that our own limitations aren’t always a vice. Finding power and positivity within fallibility allows for the type of empowerment that makes self-compassion attainable.
The Motivation app is accessible on IOS and Android platforms. Rated #5 for 2021 health and wellness apps, it offers inspirational thoughts and quotes to motivate, support, and help guide users on their mental wellness paths. I like this app’s simplicity of purpose. It doesn’t try to cram too much into the listed offerings, leading me to believe that motivating reinforcement is truly their focus. Users can set daily reminders for themselves, share quotes with others, and download images for use on other platforms (such as Instagram). They can also filter their categories of interest. Some options include:
Motivation to train and work out
Motivation to work harder
Being present and mindful
Love yourself better
Life lessons and sayings
Getting over a breakup
Although this is another subscription service, my favorite thing about Motivation is their current dedication to mental wellness during the pandemic. It’s the only app I came across that advertises a set of free categories for managing stress and anxiety during COVID. As self-compassion tends to wax and wane with stress levels, it’s especially relevant to work on during a time of global panic. Considering Motivation is offering free resources in order to do just that, it’s a must consider when looking for a self-compassion app.
Reflectly has been voted the #1 journaling app, rewarding subscribers with personalized motivation for consistent or continual use. It’s also the world’s first intelligent journal app and mood tracker. Considered a mental health companion, it relies on artificial intelligence to help users record and organize their thoughts. It also implements practices found in positive psychology, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy. In order to counteract negative thought patterns and increase positivity, users are encouraged to keep daily mood journals and use a habit tracker.
Reflectly is available on ISO and Android platforms. The subscription based app, which offers a free trial to new users, lists several benefits of use. Some of those benefits include stress relief, anxiety reduction, and depression reduction. It also stresses the importance of prioritizing self-love and self-care. Coincidentally, these are two fundamental concepts on one’s self-compassion journey. As the app seems to not only tie into but support all the same building blocks of self-compassion, it was an easy decision to include it on the list.
Shine is considered a meditation app and is focused on self-care and self-improvement. It offers over 800 meditations, put together and delivered by a very diverse demographic. Over 3 million users have used the app to some extent. Users are not only to meditate, but use multiple tools to create personalized self-care routines. Like most of the others I’ve reviewed, it’s free to download and use basic features, but contains in-app purchases and offers subscriptions.
Created by Naomi Hirabayshi and Marah Lidey, the app enables users to engage in a three-part process: meditate, connect, and reflect. As two technology founders, they aimed to help those struggling not just heal, but grow during the healing process. Both former employees at dosomething.org, they also wanted to bring about social change in a way that was personal, yet poignant.
Shine is available for IOS and Android, and incorporates the best features of many apps reviewed above. It sends motivational messages to keep users inspired, has the option of audio messages, and also offers messages via daily texts. One of those messages, the Daily Shine, is a feature specific to the practice of daily, personalized meditation. Like the Breeze app, it also offers a daily mood tracker. Some topics available that align with self-compassion:
There you have it, my ten preferred apps for improving the techniques and tools of self-compassion. Hopefully, you found an option to meet your current needs. If not, there are many more out there! No matter what you choose to use, make sure your mental wellness stays a top priority!
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