Apple coined the phrase “there's an app for that,” and it's true many of us tend rely on our smartphones and apps for so much these days. There are apps for music, dating, exercising, health, transport, learning new languages, and even tuning a guitar. But what are some of the best happiness apps out there?
There are so many happiness apps these days, how do you know which are the best? Well, below I review five of the top science-based happiness apps to reveal their strengths and weaknesses.
The best happiness apps are, first and foremost, free (at least for a trial run). Many also use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as a basis for their concept. While apps are indeed very different than an hour of talk therapy with a counsellor, the way that apps can work within the realm of CBT is to try to modify your thinking patterns and by helping you to change patterns of behaviour through repetition. This can be of help if you are trying to stop ruminating.
There are various reasons why self-care apps can be a positive addition to your life and push you a little bit closer towards your quest to happiness. They're more common than you think, and people already tend to use the iPhone, an extension of themselves, as a way to learn more about and to be more in tune with their mind.
Get appy: which happiness apps boost your well-being?
Indeed, according to Nature, about 29 per cent of “disease-specific mobile health apps” are focused on mental health. For example, two common mental health related apps for more dire circumstances are the PTSD Coach app or FOCUS for users with schizophrenia. While these two don't illustrate why the average happy hunter uses happiness apps, they have some of the same benefits.
First of all, the best happiness apps are helpful for those with a busy schedule, as they are always available. After all, you never know when you’ll need help. The app also interacts positively with the user. Just like getting constant notifications or updates on social media might be stressful, receiving reminders to do a task or maybe an affirmation just when you need it could help you feel a lot better.
“Apps within the realm of CBT try to modify your thinking patterns and by helping you to change your patterns of behaviour through repetition.”
While not all the apps are free, many beat the cost of going to see a mental health professional, and, what’s more, the stigma of going to see a specialist unfortunately still exists. Some of the advantages of using happiness apps are:
Of course, it's important to remember that happiness and health apps are an excellent way to keep working towards better mental health at the forefront of your everyday life and can consolidate healthy habits, but even the best happiness apps by no means replace visiting a mental health professional, or even just simple human contact.
Think of these happy apps like vitamins – supplements are great, but they can never replace the real thing. So, without further ado – and in no particular order – here's our pick of the best happiness apps on the market right now.
Happify comes in both website and app form, and claims to:
The Happify app has various “scientifically validated tracks” that are suggested to you after you take a short questionnaire detailing your life and health. Each track has a theme and is divided into parts (usually four). These are then divided into activities, ranging from guided meditations to reflective writing assignments to fun games. How many tracks depends on if you pay the monthly subscription or downloaded the free version.
Happify app: an overview of this happiness application
For the more socially minded, there's a community page with inspirational comments from other users. You can add your own too to brighten someone else’s day since it’s proven to make you feel happier. There are 58 'core activities' to begin with, with different variations, adding up to an amazing 1,200 various activities in total.
These activities were designed with the help of a psychology professor, and they range from asking you to write down what you’re looking forward to in general, or looking forward to doing for a friend. Each of the 58 activities has a “Why it works” icon next to it, to explain you more about the science behind the fun games. Every two weeks, your phone gives you a happiness check-in.
“While not all the best happiness apps are free, many beat the cost of going to see a mental health professional.”
The reception for Happify app has been overall positive. In fact, 86 per cent of the app's users reported feeling better about their lives after just two months of using it during testing, with many reporting feeling more motivated and productive, indicating that it helps people to solidify positive, helpful habits that are the framework for a more confident and happy life.
Happify app allows you develop life-changing habits
Users can also access Happify Daily – free content based around happiness – as well as the Happify community and forum. And, if you really feel the app is working for you, you can unlock the full range of actives and reports by subscribing to Happify Plus.
So, as a recap, here's why you should download the Happify app:
Android: free iPhone: unavailable
The Happy Habits app describes itself as relying heavily on the principles of CBT, and that it works by helping to “create the conditions for happiness in [the user's] life.
It starts out by giving its users a 119-item test to assess their happiness based on 14 factors; then, they administer results and suggestions, through games and soothing audios to talk you through your quest for happiness.
Another Happy Habits feature are Emotion Training Audios. These are to help with managing emotions so that you can be more aware and cultivate a more positive attitude, best used when you feel overwhelmed by anger, sadness, or stress.
Happy Habits: a sneak peak inside this well-being app
Then, if you're feeling particularly anxious, you can also use the Relaxation Audios to unwind and to learn deep relaxation. Or, for those of you who like to find out more about the concept and the history of the pursuit of happiness, there's their Choosing Happiness Audio to delve into the idea of and search for well-being. For those of you who like to cross things off of a list, the Happy Habits app also features a Customisable Happy 'to do' list.
“The best happiness are free (at least for a trial run). Many also use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as a basis for their concept.”
Like most of the best happy apps, it's gamified, which means using it is fun, rather than a chore, with a points feature that helps you to keep track of progress.
Users who like to write and keep track of their thoughts will be happy to know that the app also has a happiness journal for writing personal affirmations and recording positive events to look back on later. The Happy Habits design is a little retro, but it uses positive colours like yellow and orange, and it’s customizable.
Building resilience – the ability to stay strong, motivated and optimistic – even in the face of change and difficult challenges is tough. But the makers behind the SuperBetter app believe that using their tool will unlock your heroic potential so you can overcome tough situations and achieve goals that matter most.
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At the heart of SuperBetter is the Live Gamefully® method, a framework that brings the psychological strengths and mindset of gameplay to real life. The method promotes new levels of personal growth as a result of stress and change. That's why it's called SuperBetter.
A key part of building happiness is developing resilience. While bouncing back from life’s challenges is important, it’s not easy. SuperBetter makes the process easier by taking you through a series of activities that help you build resilience while reducing anxiety and depression, leading to a happier life.
Feeling super: SuperBetter founder Jane McGonigal
The SuperBetter app has gamified the process of building happiness by creating short and simple activities that you complete as you head off on quests to build happiness-boosting skills. Completing the activities provide you with quick wins to jump-start your happiness journey.
With SuperBetter you become the hero of the app, as you gain points and power by completing and tracking daily activities. Simple tasks such as taking a walk or drinking a glass of water count as a step toward your ultimate goal. You can also do it with a secret identity and superhero story of your choosing. The SuperBetter lets you collect power-ups on your quests, fight off bad guys, and get help from allies.
Another unique thing about the SuperBetter app is that it's heavily science-backed. A study by the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia found that when people played SuperBetter for 30 days, their mood improved, symptoms of anxiety and depression decreased, and self-belief to achieve goals increased.
So, a recap of why you should use the SuperBetter app:
Android: unavailable iPhone: free
Happier is an Apple app on a mission: to make sure you appreciate life to the fullest. Happier app was developed by Nataly Kogan, a TEDtalk speaker who emigrated from Russia when she was young and went through hard times, escaping oppression in the Soviet Union while her family got on their feet in the Detroit projects.
Allegedly, Kogan vowed to find happiness, first looking towards success and wealth to achieve it. Quite understandably, this did not lead her where she wanted, so she turned towards her father's work – science – to see what next steps she could take.
Happier app: an overview of what's inside
In practice, the app works by helping you to be "more present and positive throughout the day," working like a life appreciation platform, or a personal life coach. Each day it prompts you to write what you're most grateful for, be it the sun shining on your back, a moment spent with a loved one, making every stoplight on the street, or getting your favourite ice cream – you can even add pictures
These are moments that you might not notice if not for Happier, with which you can "create, collect and share those tiny positive moments." Ways you can use it are to lift your mood, take a meditation break, or enjoy the moments that make your day happier.
“Happier app works by helping you to be 'more present and positive throughout the day', working like a life appreciation platform, or even a personal life coach.”
The Happier app is portable and can be used on Apple watch as well, acting as your gratitude journal. It also offers “bite-sized, expert-led courses,” to teach you more about the practice and science of happiness on which the app is based, breaching subjects like strength, calmness, and gratitude.
What's more, it works as a sort of happiness social media platform, where you can connect to those around you (if you want, since sharing publicly is entirely optional) and get inspired by their gratitude posts. There's something very zen about Happier, an app which urges you to think of happiness, not like a feeling, but more like a muscle to be trained and on which you can rely on your day-to-day life.
Not all talk: Nataly Kogan, founder of the Happier app
Happier app currently has over one million members, so they must be doing something right! The good news for Android users is that a Happier app for them is currently being developed and should be released soon.
So, here's a recap as to why you should use the Happier app:
A relative newcomer into the happiness app scene, Yolife is described as 'your personal coach to live longer in good health'. Indeed, the vision of the Yolife founders is to add 15 healthy years to the lives of at least one million people in the world. And what does great health bring? Greater happiness, that's what.
Signing up via log-in or Facebook, the first stage of Yolife involves completing an engaging health consultation, answering questions about your health, habits, exercise, social life and such. Your responses determine just how many extra healthy years they suggest you'll live in good health.
Love life: Yolife wants you to live longer in great health
Furthermore, with each answer you give there's a scientific explanation behind it and the chance to read more. Indeed, Yolife is thoroughly research-based, using clinical studies and advisory board for input. The design is modern and sleek, with a refreshing sense of humor in the texts, too.
After completing the consultation you can see how many estimated healthy years you have. What comes next is your personalized programme of activities which aims to boost those healthy years further by helping you to discover which areas you have the greatest potential to improve. The programme includes classes on subjects such as optimal sleeping conditions, the purpose of life, sex makes you live longer (!), different ways of fasting, and plenty more.
“The vision of the Yolife app is to add 15 healthy years to the lives of at least one million people in the world.”
Yolife co-founder Tassilo Weber has his own definition of happiness which is very much present in the app: "I'm not only an entrepreneur, I also studied philosophy and still consider myself a philosopher by heart. Therefore, the pursuit and definition of happiness has always been a major topic in my life. And that influence cannot be hidden, as you use the Yolife app.
The happiness app Yolife has a sleek, smart design
“There's even one full session called “A formula for happiness”. It boils down to two things: 1. Find and follow a purpose. 2. Stay healthy for as long as possible. With these two pillars in place, happiness has the best chance to thrive. As Yolife is an app that helps you to live longer in good health and guided by purpose, I consider happiness as one of the main value propositions that we intend to bring to at least one million people.”
So, here's a recap as to why you should use the Yolife:
Of course, using these happiness apps alone won't be enough to change your life. Spending too much time on your smartphone – even on happiness apps – won't give you time to put what you learn on these apps into practice.
Still, there is science to back up the claims behind these programs. For example, a meta-analysis of 51 “positive-interventions” like mindfulness activities, gratitude writing, and goal-setting found them to “significantly enhance well-being and decrease depressive symptoms.” More specifically, one of the main ideas behind the majority of these apps, counting your blessings, has been proven to make you happier.
We invite you to try out what we think are the best happiness apps to see what works best for you, and what pushes you to do the little things that will make your life better. Let us know below in the comments which ones have helped you the most! ●
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Rae Bathgate is an American journalist based in Barcelona, where she enjoys sunlight, yoga, and bookbinding.
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