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Smartphones and health – it’s not always portrayed as a match made and heaven, and when they are mentioned in the same sentence, it is usually in the sense that we should spend less time interacting with the former to improve the latter. That’s not always practical, as so many of our day to day tasks, interactions and even entertainment are centered around that little handset.
What’s more, your smartphone does not have to be the criminal of the piece. With the right apps installed, it can actually help to improve both your physical and psychological well being. Here are a few examples.
This meditation and mindfulness app is described as a “workout for the brain.” It was developed by Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk, and it counts Emma Watson and Gwyneth Paltrow among its legion of supporters. All it demands of you is 10 minutes of your time each day. Users have said it improves their attention span and reduces anxiety. It’s free to try and then there are various subscription options, including student and family plans.
A recent study on sleep health found that almost half of Australians have suboptimal sleep patterns. Our phones often get the blame for that due to our inability to stop looking at the screen late at night. But if we can break that habit, the Sleep Cycle app could also help our phone become a guardian of better bedtime habits. The app monitors your sound and movement to track your sleep cycle and steps in to gently awaken you when you are sleeping lightly. It’s free to download, so give it a try.
This was one of the first health apps as we currently know them, and it remains right up there with the best. Use it to track and monitor all aspects of your health, from diet to exercise, and to set goals. The app makes clever use of gamification to keep things interesting and if comes packed with useful information and resources such as recipes and workout routines.
Are gambling apps bad for your health? In most cases not, but just like a well-stocked drinks cabinet, they can spell disaster for a minority of people struggling with addiction. Gambling blocking software is an ideal solution for people who cannot gamble responsibly, and Gamban is the market-leading app. It’s quick and simple to install, whereupon it runs quietly in the background whenever your phone is in use. It costs AU$5.49 per month or an annual subscription is $54.99.
Speaking of addiction, nicotine can be as hard to quit as heroin, so if you’re trying to do so, any motivational help is going to be welcome. This app tracks your cravings and also keeps a running score of how much money you are saving and the time you are adding to your life expectancy by resisting the urge to light up. It even helps you plan your quitting strategy, and best of all, it is free to download.
Whether you keep fit by regular gym visits or you have set your own home workout routine, FitNotes is a free app that will make life so much easier by keeping track of everything you do and ensuring you stay on target. It’s also preloaded with a great database of exercises that you can try, so things need never to get stale and boring.
Both mental and physical wellbeing are all about maintaining good habits. Streaks is a fabulous little app that encourages you to do just that. Think of it as your slightly bossy but well-meaning wellness guru! Load it with up to 12 daily tasks and build up streaks of consecutive days when you hit all your targets. The great thing is the tasks can be anything – from walking 10,000 steps to reading a chapter of a book to devoting 30 minutes to piano practice. It’s five dollars well spent.
Working too many hours to fit in a visit to the gym? Too busy sorting the kids out to take a run around the block? It’s easy to find a reason not to do something, and lack of time is usually the excuse of choice. But here’s the thing. Exercise doesn’t mean setting aside an hour or more for a workout, and the Wakeout app proves it. It contains a huge library of exercises that can be done in 30 seconds and don’t require you to change into a tracksuit first or go for a shower afterwards. They can be done right there at your desk or in the living room. Find the time to download it, the app won’t cost you anything and it might just change your life.
Finally, an app that you can use at bedtime without fear of undoing all that good work you achieved during the day. Calm has been endorsed by some of the top mental health experts and psychologists. It offers a whole range of meditation techniques and breathing exercises, but the best part is “Sleep Stories,” read by a number of famous celebrities. Frankly, if the sound of Stephen Fry reading you a bedtime story doesn’t set you up for a peaceful night, nothing will. It’s free to download, but worth paying a little extra to get access to the premium content.