If you’re feeling the weight of the semester’s workload getting heavier and heavier, there are (weightless!) apps for your smartphone designed to help you stay positive and focused.These programs keep track of your progress while offering a quick, cheap, and discreet way to manage your mood during a busy semester. Here are a few that have worked wonders for me — although they have their glitches.
Moodnotes tracks your triggers
If you’re looking for an intuitive journal for $4, Moodnotes is a great choice. Moodnotes has two options. As a “quick save,” you can quickly choose a mood and describe what you’re feeling and where you are. Or, you can go more in-depth and choose negative and positive feelings, write down your thoughts for each like a journal, and rework your line of thinking with prompts from the app. Both options are quick — the latter took me seven minutes at most.
The app’s design is beautiful — the colours are soothing and it’s easy to type in your answers. It just looks like you’re texting, which is great if you’re unable to be alone in a quiet place. Moodnotes understands extremely complex feelings like guilt, over-analyzing, or blaming your unhappiness on your circumstances. The app works well for changing your frame of mind more than your physical state, so it helps to use the app while you’re grabbing a glass of water or before going for a quick walk. The only problem is I turn to the app when I’m feeling down, which throws the “moodtrends” feature of the app off. To recognize what triggers negative feelings, set an alarm for two or three times a day to quickly flip to the app and check in. That way, you have a more accurate account of your progress and you can see if there are times of the day or certain situations that trigger negative moods.
Superbetter motivates you to be your own hero
If you’re a gamer, this free app is for you. Designed by a programmer, Superbetter lets you become a more heroic version of yourself, even though you’re just moving through the everyday. Superbetter challenges you to complete small tasks — like drinking a glass of water or telling a friend “thank you” — and allows you to unlock small packages of challenges as you go. You also can turn notifications on to remind you to play if you’re not a natural-born gamer, but winning points for overcoming mental blocks can become pleasantly addictive. The app is customizable for a lot of issues including depression, anxiety, physical pain or injury, or poor will-power. It’s an effective program that gets you up and moving and instantly boosts your mood. Superbetter takes a fun and lighthearted approach to dealing with your illness — but for me, this wasn’t a plus. At first I was enticed by the story behind the app, but the interface is a little crowded and it’s so lighthearted that the game is easy to ignore if you’re not in the mood for fun. Superbetter is great for instant and tangible results, but it didn’t work for me for the long-term.
Headspace helps you find calm and clarity
Headspace is a meditation app. If you’re skeptical about meditation, this program gives you all of the benefits of a clear head and relaxed body without making you feel like you’re doing it wrong. It guides you through basic meditation posture and practice with sweet animated videos, but the program is mostly auditory. Headspace, or rather “your friend Andy,” advises that you do the 10-minute program first thing in the morning. This is a good idea if you find yourself preoccupied at night, but meditating right before bed can help silence those worries that creep up on us when we’re trying to sleep. For whatever time of day you choose, just make sure you’re not busy. Staying still when you’ve got an appointment to get to or a deadline to meet can make you feel agitated, resulting in being unable to truly enjoy the program. The biggest downside is that the app asks for a subscription once the Take10 program, the free 10-day trial that comes with the app download, is over. Headspace costs about $12.95 per month or $7.99 per month if you sign up for a year. For some, this is too pricey — but it’s a whole lot cheaper than signing up for a class. If you’re not sure that a subscription would help you, try continuing to meditate after the program for 10 minutes with a soft alarm. The app is useful because it guides you through getting distracted and reminds you to meditate, but if you’re dedicated you can do it on your own (for free!).
These apps are not a substitute for professional help or doctor-prescribed medication. If you are suffering from symptoms of depression, anxiety, or any mental health-related issue, please consult your doctor or visit the counselling centre at UFV.