What's up with self-care apps?

phone apps self care Jul 27, 2019

Are you surprised to learn that in 2018, self-care apps topped Apple’s trends list? Consumers spent more than $32M US on mindfulness apps like Calm, Headspace and 10% Happier. This year, Pinterest’s top 100 trends for 2019 indicates that the search for sleep apps has increased by 116%. 

So, are apps the answer to better self-care?  

According to writer Nicole Spector, wellness trends are about owning self-care. What she means is that the trends are less about gadgets and more about putting in the time.

It doesn’t appear that self-care apps are going to disappear anytime soon so when I saw that the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) collaborated to create an assessment framework for mental health apps, I took a closer look.

According to the MHCC and CIHR, the number of mental health apps is growing every day and determining which ones are reliable and actually work is even harder.

The solution?

These organizations worked together to create an assessment framework that will make it easier for people to find the right apps for their specific needs. The purpose of the guiding principles and assessment criteria in the framework helps people across make more informed decisions about apps.  MHCC and CIHR strongly believe that not all mental health apps are equal and although some many have proven mental health benefits, other apps are “ineffective, potentially unsafe or have serious privacy/security flaws” (MHCC, 2019, p. 1). 

Click here for the full framework https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/sites/default/files/2018-01/eMH_app_eng.pdf

Woebot is the winner of this year’s Google Play awards in the Standout Well-being App category. It claims to offer relief to people with anxiety using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).  Heather Dockray, the author of Self-care apps want to make us happy. So why do they make us feel so bleak? interviewed social worker Sara Richardson who argues that “it's borderline dangerous for an automated "therapist" to operate that way”. Although Richardson isn't opposed to all apps, she is anxious that wellness apps will replace the most important part of the process: the therapeutic relationship or human connection.

As for apps that I think could be very useful, here are a few:

Forest – helps you stay focused (and supports a tree-planting organization) https://www.forestapp.cc/

In the Moment - https://inthemoment.io/ - helps you see how much time you spend on your phone

AppDetox – helps procrastinators use their phones less (by blocking apps) https://appdetox.github.io/about/

So, getting back to the app trend…

I do have several downloaded on my phone but can count the numbers of times I have actually looked at any of them. I have used meditation apps several times but when I feel the need to meditate, I sit in a chair and just do it. It isn't an app that gets me to tie up my running shoes and go out for a walk every morning - it's just sheer motivation.

To be realistic, it's tough to find time to practice self-care but Dr. Janice Gelb suggests that a good solution is a combination of advance planning (to anticipate potential distractions and issues that might derail our self-care time) and forgiveness when things don't go according to plan. Let's face it - self-care for most of us any day is challenging!

Do you use self-care apps? If so, do you find them useful in helping you practice self-care?

Thanks for reading. Patrice



Dockray, H. (2019). Self-care apps want to make us happy. So why do they make us feel so bleak? https://mashable.com/article/self-care-apps-spark-nothingness/

Gelb, J. (2019). How to Prioritize Self-Care When Life's Super Busy". https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/all-grown/201907/how-prioritize-self-care-when-life-s-super-busy

Jansen, M. (2019). The 2019 Google Play Awards honor self-care apps and alien-blasting games. https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/google-play-awards-2019-winners/

Pesce, N. (2018). This was the hottest app trend of the year. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-was-the-hottest-app-trend-of-the-year-2018-12-07

Spector, N. (2019). From sleep to restorative exercise, 2019 wellness trends are about owning self-care. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/sleep-restorative-exercise-2019-wellness-trends-are-about-owning-self-ncna953746



Patrice Palmer has more than 23 years’ experience as an ESL teacher, trainer and writer in Canada and spent seven amazing years in Hong Kong. She has an M.Ed., M.A. and certificates in Positive Psychology and Positive Education. Patrice has transitioned out of classroom teaching and now works as a teacherpreneur doing the things she loves such as writing books and online courses and delivering workshops on teacher self-care. Her own personal experience with professional burn-out in 2015 prompted her to reflect on her own self-care and adopt positive psychology interventions which she now shares with other educators and administrators. Patrice's next book on Teacher Self-Care will be out in October 2019. https://www.alphabetpublishingbooks.com/book/teacher-self-care-manual/

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