Free Mental Health Apps
Stress is part of our daily lives and for many, so is anxiety and depression. While too much time on our phones can contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle and worsen our wellbeing. There is a range of tried and tested free mental health apps that can provide much-needed support for looking after our mental health.
An app is not a replacement for treatment if you’re seriously struggling with your mental health. Always seek professional help if you are suffering. However, in some cases, using a specific app can help support recovery and continue the path to wellbeing. If just want to improve your stress levels and learn how to cope with negative thinking, these apps will help.
Unfortunately even choosing what app to try can be a minefield of overwhelming choice. Type in stress, meditation or CBT into the app store and you immediately have 100s to choose from. But which ones are the best? I've done a lot of research and tried (and paid for) many! Half the apps on my phone are some sort of mental health improvement apps. Some I've opened once and some I go to daily. So take a look below at my roundup of the best free mental health apps and see if using one can help you feel better.
CBT Mental Health Apps
CBT, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle.
CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. It is one of the most successful therapies for treating anxiety and depression, but everyone can use it to help improve their wellbeing. You're shown how to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis.
What’s up is an amazing free app that uses CBT and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) methods. Use the positive and negative habit tracker to maintain your good habits, and break those that are counterproductive. I love the “Get Grounded” page, which contains over 100 different questions to pinpoint what you’re feeling. I find when I need to write down what I'm feeling in that given moment my mind goes blank, so these questions are a big help. I'm also a big fan of the “Thinking Patterns” page, which teaches you how to stop the internal negative talk.
CBT Thought Record Diary
This is a great app for gradually changing your approach to anxiety-inducing situations and your thinking patterns for future situations. You can use CBT Thought Record Diary to document negative emotions, analyze flaws in your thinking, and reevaluate your thoughts.
Sanvello (Formerly Pacifica)
This Free App provides daily tools for stress, anxiety, and depression – it’s based on cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness meditation. I've been using this one for ages, it does have features you need to pay for but you get a lot with the free version
Developed by two clinical psychologists, MoodKit helps you learn how to change how you think, and develop self-awareness and healthy attitudes. While you do have to pay, it's great value for over 200 mood improvement activities. Also, the journal feature is a great way to practice self-care by reflecting on the day, noting any troubling thoughts, and noting how you overcame them. You do have to pay for it for $4.99 it much better value than other apps.
Mental Health Apps for Positive Thinking
Find yourself in a bad mood, try these apps to turn your mood around.
With proven techniques are developed by leading scientists and experts its mood-training programme is your fast-track to a good mood. Try a range of gratitude prompts, activity suggestions, engaging games, and more to train your brain as if it were a muscle, to overcome negative thoughts. You can also log in on their browser version https://www.happify.comSome of the games do feel a bit simple and even silly, but its proven the positive word association helps lift your feelings.
Mental Health Apps - Journaling
Journaling is all about reflecting. When you begin writing down your day’s journey, you’ll be able to identify the problems that you’ve faced. Writing down your thoughts on paper will really help you clear your mind and get a lot off your chest.
Another one of my long term favourites. The app’s word cloud technology recognizes which words you use the most when writing down your feelings allowing you to reflect on why these are your go-to emotions. You can also use the app’s social network dimension, which allows users to connect with peers through messaging. Plus you can share your journal too and get feedback if you’d like support from others.
(Free; iOS )
If you don’t want to write long journal entries or struggle to put into words how you are feeling Reflectly makes it quick and easy to keep a record on how you are doing. The app will ask you questions about the day and give you actionable insights to improve your state of being. It also picks a photo to be displayed for each day according to what your report on it is like. It also congratulates you if your logging in every day by displaying your streak. Making you more likely to keep going with it.
General Health App
Good physical health helps support mental health.
The app allows you to set personal goals, from eating healthier, to building more muscle and getting in more steps each day. So it's more of a broader resource for all things healthy living. You can also enter your own personal data and let Lifesum generate a “Life Score” to get a personalized roadmap to better health. With reminders to drink water and eat regularly throughout the day. All things that contribute to good physical and mental health.
Meditation and Stress Apps
There is now hard evidence that meditation can cut stress. It has been shown that just five short sessions of meditation could be enough to help us achieve peace of mind. If you only use one app for your mental health, it should be a meditation app. I think of it like a personal trainer, if you just sit down and try and clear your mind for 10 minutes, you're going to find it very hard, just like starting a tough physical training program. These apps help guide your meditation, reminding you when you mind begins to wander.
You couldn't write a list of meditation apps and not include the granddaddy of them all. One of the best apps to introduce you to meditation, it makes the practice so simple. Start off with the 10-day introduction for free and it gives you a great background on how to mediate. Plus you can repeat the 10 days as many times as you want.
If you are enjoying the app and finding it beneficial you can sign up to a monthly plan which gives you access to hundreds of meditations on everything from stress and anxiety to sleep and focus. Plus the app also has a handy “get some headspace” reminder to encourage you to keep practising each day.
Another well-known app that has to be on the list is Calm. Named by Apple as the 2017 iPhone App of the Year, Calm provides people experiencing stress and anxiety with guided meditations, sleep stories, breathing programs, and relaxing music. No matter what you are feeling this app will have a meditation for you. Some of my favourite features are the sleep stories, short stories to listen to before bed, that help you drift off. The breath bubble is another one when you only have a few minutes to spare, this is a great meditation to help ground and relax you. Perfect for when you are having a stressful day at work. Most of the meditations are free, but some of the sessions are locked unless you subscribe.
Insight Timer is one of the most popular meditation apps, with nearly 10,000 free meditations from over 2,000 teachers, in over 25 languages! Many using this app find the community aspect the most useful with over 4.5m users and, around 6,000 groups. You can see how many people are meditating at the same time as you, which can give a feeling of being part of a group, making the meditation more powerful.
If you want to take your practice to the next level try
Created from one of my favourite podcast hosts, Sam Haris who has a degree in philosophy and a PhD in neuroscience. Now it requires some commitment (which I'll be honest I have done yet) as you have to do a 50-day introductory course before unlocking access to daily meditations.
These apps only work if you use them! I am very guilty of downloading various ones and only using them a few times. A good app will have you coming back to use it, but you have to commit to it and make the habit.
Have you tried any of these mental health apps? Do you have one you'd recommend? Let me know in the comments below!
Also, don't forget to check out my tips for Workplace Wellness!