Apps aren’t just for games and social media.
If you’re good at setting goals, but not so great at actively working toward them, sometimes a little help via your trusty smartphone is the push you need. Your phone can do *so* much more than supply a killer cardio playlist as you train for your first 5K.
There’s an app for just about everything these days, and the health category is booming with options. What these apps excel in is helping you track your habits and progress, and finding ways to keep you motivated and on track.
No matter what your health goals are, there’s (probably) an app for that. Here are just some of the offerings you can try on your phone.
1. Charity Miles Walk & Run Tracker
If the idea of running doesn’t get you jazzed to lace up your sneakers, you might benefit from the Charity Miles app. As the name suggests, every mile you run, bike, or walk helps earn money for the charity of your choice. You can log miles on your own, or you can build a community of “active-ists” to work together to support your chosen charity. There are over 40 charities to choose from, include Habitat for Humanity, the ALS Association, the World Wildlife Foundation, the Special Olympics, and the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Pacifica is all about mental health and finding calm. The first time you open it, it asks you about your mental health goals to personalize the experience for you. You can choose to work on improving self-esteem, reducing anxiety, boosting energy, and more.
The Pacifica app checks in with you daily to track your mood and increase self-awareness, and it can help you identify triggers and trends. You can even track other metrics that can affect mental health, like how much sleep and exercise you got. Finally, the app also offers guided meditation, tips, and “seminars” by experts, based on the approach of cognitive behavioral therapy.
3. YouAte Food Diary
Nope, it’s not a calorie counter. In fact, experts don’t recommend using food journals to count calories. Instead, this virtual food diary helps promote mindful eating, which means being aware of the present moment while you’re eating.
Mindful eating involves enjoying and noticing each bite and flavor, being aware of why you’re eating and what you’re feeling as you eat, and paying attention to hunger and fullness cues. Mindful eating can help you eat more slowly and improve your attitudes and habits around food. (Here are signs your relationship with food is healthy.)
The YouAte Food Diary app asks you to track your snacks and meals with photos, allowing you to visually see what you’re eating throughout each day and identify trends, strengths, and weaknesses. Then, the app asks you simple prompts to encourage you to reflect on the meal and experience, such as how you felt during and after the meal.
There are several apps to help you quit alcohol altogether, but if you’re only looking to curb your intake, DrinkControl is a good option. Most people aren’t sure what “drinking in moderation” actually means, and they might be surprised at how quickly a night out can qualify as binge drinking. (Find out the health effects of binge drinking here.)
This app tracks your drink intake, taking glass size and liquor type into account. The color-coded stats turn red when you’ve crossed the line from “safe drinking” to “binge drinking.” For women, that’s about *one* drink a day (or up to 8 a week or 35 a month).
As extra encouragement, the app also tracks how much money you’ve spent on alcohol and how many boozy calories you’ve consumed, both of which may surprise you and give you extra reasons not to order another round.
Love yoga? Lotus is for you. It gives tutorials on over 400 yoga poses, and it helps you build your own yoga sequences by arranging those poses in a logical order. Alternatively, you can follow one of their ready-made video classes. Learn more about the benefits of yoga here.
The Productive app isn’t exclusively for health, but it can help you build any new habit you want, whether it’s health-related or just taking out the garbage. You could use the app to help you commit to flossing, meditating, taking vitamins, going on daily walks, or hitting up the gym.
To use the app, you set up goals using some of their suggestions, or create your own based on your unique needs. You set how often you want to complete the habit (daily, three times a week, once a month, etc.). You mark the habits as complete when you do them, and the app sends you notifications to remind you to do the habit if you haven’t completed them.
What makes this app effective is it tracks your “streak” of how well you’ve stuck to the habit. It tells you how many days you’ve gone without missing a goal, so not wanting to lose your 139-day streak may motivate you to floss.
Apps are a great way to light your fire and help you keep it lit. Other ways to stick to goals include finding a buddy to hold you accountable, creating a reward system, writing down reminders on sticky notes about why this goal is important, and celebrating small victories.
8 steps to mindful eating. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Health Publishing, 2016. (Accessed on December 12, 2018 at https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/8-steps-to-mindful-eating.)
Alcohol and public health: frequently asked questions. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on December 12, 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm#moderate.)
American Heart Association recommendations for physical activity in adults and kids. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association. (Accessed on December 12, 2018 at https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults.)
Complementary health approaches. Arlington, VA: National Alliance on Mental Illness. (Accessed on December 12, 2018 at https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Treatment/Complementary-Health-Approaches.)
Exercise mind and body with yoga and mindful movement. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association. (Accessed on December 12, 2018 at https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/exercise-mind-and-body-with-yoga-and-mindful-movement.)
Mental health and heart health. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association. (Accessed on December 12, 2018 at https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/mental-health-and-heart-health.)