When it comes to living a positive and healthy lifestyle, smartphones and social media face a stigma, with many blaming them for the influx of mental health problems, especially among younger generations. Although there is proof of some of these negative effects, this attitude can also be the catalyst to people believing their smartphones can only bring harmful influences into their life.
In this article, we look into the positive ways your smartphone can improve your wellbeing to help keep you relaxed between your visits to our city spa, as well as recommending some apps to get you started with your more positive smartphone experience.
Smartphones and social media are very different things, although they are often discussed as one entity. A lot of the negative stigma attached to the use of social media often gets attached to smartphones. This means that those who see social media as a negative influencer, can also see smartphones as that same negative influencer, despite the fact they are merely hosts for social media.
It’s naive to think that smartphone usage is 100% positive. As with all modern technologies, there are limitations and issues that come with time. Similarly, to televisions for example, the blue light emitted by modern screens can cause digital eye-strain when used to excess. This is because it scatters more than other light waves, and actually makes it harder to focus due to the visual ‘noise’ undetectable to the human eye.
It’s important to remember that many things can be harmful if done in excess but are safe when regulated. Just like running puts pressure on your knees causing joint pain and eating too much fruit can result in a vitamin overdose, too much smartphone usage can have negative effects. The key is moderation.
Just as the internet allowed people to learn more than they ever had before, smartphones have brought advances a long quicker than anyone could think. Suddenly, every person has access to limitless information, and the whole world at their fingertips. Your smartphone allows you to stay in contact with people all over the world, it allows you to receive breaking news and laugh at funny cat pictures on the internet, all on one small device.
The smartphone is the modern-day pocket knife, from the flashlight to storing all of your health information in case of an emergency, it has so many uses, and no one will ever be able to list them all. As well as more functional features, it also has some features that can just bring positivity into your life. Through the applications you download, and how you choose to use your device, it can bring a positive influence into your life.
In a recent study by GSMA (Global Speciale Mobile Association) called ‘the impact of mobile on people’s happiness and well-being’ researchers looked into the effects that a person’s access to a mobile phone and the internet can have on their personal concept of their wellbeing. They found that people who have both mobile phone and internet access evaluated their lives on average at 5.92 out of 10. Whereas, those who had no access to either internet of mobile phones rated their lives at 4.59 out of 10. Another study published in the journal of Psychiatric Services, found that in a group of 163 patients who experienced mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar and major depression were more likely to use a mobile phone app dedicated to aiding in mental health recovery than attend group therapy sessions.
They found that only 58% of those assigned to the clinic treatment attended at least one group therapy session, whereas 90% of those assigned to use the smartphone app used it at least once.
These studies are a start to people looking for the good in smartphone use and turning negative stigmas into educational discussions about how smartphones can be used for good.
So, which apps can you download to help make your smartphone usage, and life, more positive? Here we look at a range of apps, from those that help your mental wellbeing to those that can help you start exercising.
Many apps have the primary focus of helping aid your mental wellbeing. Whether they are outlets for discussion, places to help you get some reflection time or have other purposes, there are a lot of these handy apps out there.
The Headspace app has one goal: to make meditation accessible to the masses. Although many people shy away from the stereotypical view of meditation, it is proven to bring calmness and balance into many peoples lives. Headspace is looking to allow its users to enjoy guided meditations and take a small period of time everyday just for themselves.
One of the app’s founders is actually an ordained Buddhist monk, whose only wish is that it’s easier for people to try meditation who have never tried it before. The app works on more modern principles than the ancient Buddhist teachings, and it strays away from religious underpinnings and more towards the sensation of meditation itself. If you are constantly feeling overwhelmed or stressed, or just want a way to connect with yourself more, then Headspace could be for you. You can try a free 10-day trial before you have to start paying a monthly subscription fee, so you can find out if meditation works for you.
If you find that you are always tired, and you are struggling to work your sleeping schedule out, Sleep Cycle could be for you. The app assists you in having more natural wake-ups by monitoring your sleep pattern and waking you up at the point of lightest sleep.
We spoke to the team behind Sleep Cycle, who told us some more about how the app works: “As you sleep, you go through different sleep phases, ranging from light to deep sleep and back again. The sleep phase you are in when your alarm goes off is critical for how rested you will feel when you wake up.
“While you sleep, your movements vary depending on what sleep phase you are in. Sleep Cycle’s patented sound technology tracks your sleep patterns using sound or vibration analysis, monitoring your movements in bed throughout the different sleep phases.
“Sleep Cycle finds the optimal time when you are in light sleep to wake you up in the morning, during a predefined 30-minute time window that ends at your set alarm time. Waking up in light sleep feels like waking up naturally without an alarm, leaving you feeling rested and energized.
All you need to do is turn Sleep Cycle on before going to bed and place your device on your nightstand or close by on the floor.”
Gratitude Journal focuses on allowing you to enjoy the happier moments in like and is designed to make you realign to more positive thinking. Using a simple method the app wants you to recognise, reflect on and document your happy moments, leading you to a happier life.
We spoke to Carla, the founder of Gratitude, she explained to us what the app is, and how it can help make people happy: “Gratitude is a private memoir of your life's best moments. It's also scientifically proven to rewire your brain. Each day you note the best things that happened that day. When you do this daily for at least three weeks, your brain rewires to become naturally more optimistic. Gratitude has transformed the lives of thousands of people and counting.”
Carla told us her remarkable story, and how the app came to life after the method changed her life for the better: “My dad suddenly passed away when I was living in London and attempting to launch my first business. I was already struggling, and his sudden death tipped me into depression. Wanting to help, my husband suggested we move to South Dakota, so I could be closer to my family, but that just made it worse. It was winter, I had a failed business behind me, culture shock, and the big gaping hole in my family without my dad. My coping tools became wine, food, and binge watching. I was overweight, had terrible insomnia, migraines, and struggled to make it a day without breaking down in tears. Rock bottom was when I ended up in the hospital with double pneumonia. To be honest, I just got sick of being sick. And that's when I first heard about keeping a gratitude journal.
“About two months later, after writing in my journal every single morning and night, I was out for a walk thinking about what I could put in my journal that night. I lost 15 pounds, was sleeping great, hadn't cried since I don't know when...and that's when it hit me! My life has done a complete 180! And the only thing I did was keep that gratitude journal. I knew that I had to tell the world about it by making an iPhone app. I wasn't a programmer, didn't have any budget, was miles away from tech hubs, but the desire to help others was so strong, I had to figure out how to make the app.”
There are many apps that promise to help you lose weight through their methods, and depending on your goals they can help, or they may not. Just as with finding the correct workout for you, finding the correct apps to help you with your diet goals are also important. You need to ensure that whatever you chose is a positive influence, and not a negative one. We take a look at a few apps we believe can help with positive behaviour around food and drink.
If you are looking to drink more water but are perhaps lacking the motivation, then Plant Nanny may be the app for you. When you download Plant Nanny (for free) you’ll be asked for some basic information including your height, weight and physical activity level, and then you’ll be asked to pick out a plant. The app will then work out how many cups of water a day you should be drinking and help prompt you to stick to that.
Every time you drink a cup of water, you tell the app and it keeps your plant happy. If you forget to water your plant (drink your cups of water) the plant will die, and you’ll have to start again. Although it’s only a small and trivial thing, it can be the small piece of encouragement you need to drink more, by offering a small and whimsical reward.
Fooducate focuses on food education to help you lose weight whilst learning more about nutrition and diet. On the app you’ll be able to scan product barcodes to see personalised nutrition grades for the products, along with the pros and cons of that product and healthier alternatives. This approach means that the app doesn’t shame people for their choices, but instead helps educate them to make better ones, and why their current choices may not be as nutritionally valuable as it they think.
Another great feature of this app is its ability to create bespoke responses. By entering your age, gender, weight, height and more along with your desired weight loss rate and other factors like health conditions, dietary preferences and allergies, the app creates a completely tailored experience for you.
The Sugar Smart app has been created by Change 4 Life, part of the NHS, and focuses on showing people just how much sugar is in what we consume. The app works very simply, all you have to do is scan the barcode and it will show you just how many sugar cubes are in it, along with sat fat and salt.
In recent times a lot of people are trying to cut down on their sugar consumption, and this is a great way to do that as it highlights the issue in an easy to understand way. The app can also be a fantastic way to start a dialogue with children about unhealthy ingredients whilst shopping in the supermarket.
Sometimes, all you need to do is start but you just can’t find the motivation. On top of the apps ready to count every step you take, or every calorie you eat, there are those that have been created in order to help you start exercising.
Looking to run, but have no idea where to start? C25K, or Couch to 5k, is what you’re looking for. The app is designed to help complete running beginner turn from couch potatoes to 5k runners in only 8 weeks. Using a slow-building method, the app will be your personal coach and help guide you through the process.
The plan will require only 3 work outs a week, and after 8 weeks you should be able to run 5k with ease. Over 5 million people have already completed the 8-week plan, and the app itself is recommended by many. So, if you want to start running but don’t know how, this is what you’re looking for.
If it’s not the method that illudes you with running, but the motivation, this unique app has guided many to enjoy running like they never imagined they could. The app developers know exactly what you would run from and play on that to create a fun interactive game, as well as a great motivational tool. Zombies, Run! feeds the sound of a zombie hoard chasing you down into your headphones as you run and pick up supplies whilst avoiding the mob.
The game is more intricate than that though, and as you play there are times when you’ll have to speed up to avoid the zombies, and times you can slow down, which replicates interval training. You’re able to set the length of the run before you leave, and you work through story lines and campaigns to turn all of your runs into games.
If you are looking to practice yoga anywhere at any time, Pocket Yoga is your perfect instructor. The app recreates the experience of being in a yoga class and will guide you through your practice with a soothing voice, with easy to follow instructions.
The perfect way to get some light-resistance exercise into your routine easily, and for free. Often yoga classes can be expensive, so this is a great way to start off your yoga journey. As well as on Apple and Google Play, you can get the app on your Apple Watch and Apple TV, so you really can complete a workout anywhere and at any time.