My smartphone is amazing. It checks my email, lets me Skype my friends and, with the combined power of GPS and apps using OpenStreetMap, it mostly stops me getting lost. But as well as making my life easier and more convenient, it ultimately makes it better too. And I’m not talking about Angry Birds or Instragram. I’m talking about apps that help me eat better, be happier and wake up refreshed and full of energy.
Of course, I’m talking about the new health and wellness apps bandwagon, and it’s a bandwagon worth joining. Why wouldn’t you want to eat better, be less stressed and wake up full of energy? Here are my favourite three and I’ll write about some others another day too. Which apps do you love most?
Eating healthy isn’t easy. Biologically, we’re wired to want as much sugar and fat as we can get our hands on, today’s supermarkets and 7-11’s make that all too easy, and counting calories and reading labels is yet another difficult habit to pick up. Maybe Massive Health and The Eatery app can help?
At its core, The Eatery is very simple. Whenever you have something to eat, you take a photo of it. Next, you spend a quick minute saying how healthy or unhealthy other people’s food is, and by then your own food will have been rated by other users as healthy or unhealthy on a scale from 1-10. Over time, patterns start to emerge. My meals tend to be quite healthy – my snacks much less so, and my snacks when I’m in the office least of all.
Of course, the ratings aren’t perfect (that fishcake and salad I had for dinner looked really unhealthy, and got slammed as such) but that’s not the point. The point is that now I’m much more mindful and conscious of what I eat, and noticing bad habits like those office snacks is the first step in fixing them. The Eatery gets two huge thumbs up from me for helping me build the habits of a healthier life.
One of the things that makes life hard is the constant, often frenetic pace. It’s fine when things go well – but sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes life is stressful even though it’s all going perfectly. Whether it’s an exam later today, an interview just past or an angry boss right now, we need to be able to clear our heads and leave the stress behind us.
Meditation is one powerful technique, but psychological research from more than 20 years ago till now also shows that guided visualisations (relaxing stories) are another. What’s more, there’s no learning curve for listening to a guided visualisation and Relaxing Stories is exactly what it says on the tin: a collection of relaxing stories to listen to, each 5-7 minutes long and covering a wide range of themes so that it’s easy to find one just right for you.
Disclaimer: Some friends and I built this app, so I might be a little biased – but the reviews don’t lie!
Last but not least, there’s Sleep Cycle. A healthy diet and a stress free life is great, but if you get woken in the wrong phase of sleep none of that matters – you’ll still feel groggy, slow and lethargic for 60 minutes or more. Ultimately, we’d all like to sleep with no alarm and wake naturally, but all too often you have a late night out and need to start at 9 the next day, have a train to catch or a friend to meet, and sleep has to fit around everything else.
This is where Sleep Cycle is fantastic. Using the gyroscope to assess your phase of sleep and an intelligent algorithm, the app will play a gentle alarm to wake you at the time in a 30 minute window you are least asleep. Result? You wake, refreshed and ready to go right at that moment – even if you only went to bed 3 hours before. Leaving aside the sheer bliss of always waking refreshed and happy, not groggy and sluggish, those extra minutes each morning are a valuable productivity boost.