Apps Ahoy! 5 for Building a Better, Happier, Calmer You
ADDitude highlights some of the iOS and Android apps that promise to help you build better habits, practice CBT at home, or actually become happier.
MoodKit is based on some of the principles behind cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), one of the most empirically validated forms of therapy available today. MoodKit consists of four main tools: a Thought Checker, a Mood Tracker, a Journal, and the Activities tool, which provides customizable mood-improving activities, divided into six categories. The Mood Tracker helps you keep abreast of how your mood changes over time, while the Thought Checker walks you through stressful situations — getting caught in traffic on the way to work, for instance — and helps you brainstorm how to manage them more proactively. CBT has proven effective for anxiety, ADHD, and more, and MoodKit’s personalized approach may help you get the benefits of therapy for only a fraction of the cost.
iOS, Android; $14.95/month
Can happiness really be measured — and improved — by science? That’s what the creators of Happify claim to do; in fact, according to their data, 86 percent of the app’s users are happier in just two months. After taking a baseline happiness score, the app guides you through science-backed activities that are based on a set of five principles thought to be critical to happiness: savoring, thanking, aspiring, giving, and empathizing. Activities are organized into “tracks” so you can focus on specific skills you struggle with: confidence, for instance, or positive thinking. Every few weeks, the app will re-measure your happiness and your improvement on each skill. While it’s hard to say how changes in the data play out in daily life, thinking regularly about your mood — and taking concrete steps to improve it — may be the key to turning happiness into a habit.
iOS, Android; $35.99/year
Pacifica specifically promotes itself to fend off and manage stress and anxiety, which often go hand-in-hand with an ADHD diagnosis. Like MoodKit, Pacifica uses CBT principles to help change anxiety-inducing thoughts and reduce stress-response behaviors. Guided meditation techniques — like deep breathing exercises, incremental muscle relaxation, or a mental “body scan” — can help you build stress management skills over time, or respond more effectively to a sudden panic attack. A “Daily Goals” module allows you to set both long-term goals (“Feel less anxious in social situations”) and short-term goals (“Sit in the front of the class today”). What you want to achieve with Pacifica is up to you — you can choose from a library of hundreds of pre-set goals, or you can create your own.
It’s tough for anyone to build healthy habits, but it may be even harder for people with ADHD, whose brains seem to crave the dopamine stimulation that bad habits can provide. For help in breaking bad habits — and replacing them with new, healthier ones — there’s an app called The Fabulous, which was developed by a team at Duke University’s Behavioral Economics Lab. The app helps you set up morning, afternoon, and evening rituals, or work toward specific health-related goals, like losing weight, getting more sleep, or improving focus. When you follow through on your routines, the app tracks your progress using several different calendar views, and builds your motivation by sending you inspirational quotes along the way. Voice features (including one that addresses you by name!) work with the visual interface to coach you toward your goals.
Cognitive Diary CBT Self-Help
This handheld “diary” app helps you examine your thought patterns, identify those that are weighing you down, and work positively toward changing them. How? The premise is simple: The app provides you with reading material on common CBT principles — like confronting irrational beliefs — as well as a journaling function to fill out CBT-style worksheets, record your thoughts, and track positive and negative patterns. Designed by a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience, the app relies on real CBT principles — meaning user participation is key for anyone who wants to see results. Plus, the app is password protected — an added bonus for anyone concerned with keeping his or her diary private.