The Latest "Ther-app-y":

Your smartphone can be a powerful tool for improving your overall mental health and wellness. Here are my picks for some of the best downloads. Many of these apps are available on all the leading smartphones and others are available on iPhones and iPads only.

Please feel free to email me with your personal favorites and I'll add them to the list. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Depression

Most of the apps below help you combat depression using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques. They are designed to help you:

  1. Become aware of how your mood changes and what triggers them
  2. Notice your negative or irrational thoughts, and change them to positive or realistic ones

Consider using one or more of these apps in conjunction with weekly therapy to help you make better progress in your treatment program.

MoodKit

$4.99 by Thriveport, LLC

MoodKit was developed by two clinical psychologists and is designed to help you apply effective CBT strategies to your everyday life. It includes over 150 mood improvement activities, a thought checker, mood tracker, guidance to modify distressing thoughts, and a journal for mood ratings and note-taking.

MoodPanda

FREE by Jake Greenwood

This app helps you track your mood throughout the day so that you can become more aware of what makes you happy and unhappy. It then plants a seed to help you plan activities that will lift your mood and decrease feelings of depression.

Positive Activity Jackpot

FREE by Defense Health Agency

Based on a behavioral therapy called pleasant event scheduling (PES), this app literally helps you stop and smell the roses. The theory behind PES is that having too few pleasant events can actually trigger depressive mood. On the other hand, activities or exercises that increase feelings of gratitude, optimism, forgiveness, love, zest for life, or even humor can promote a sense of happiness and well-being. Positive Activity Jackpot uses augmented reality technology to tell you when there is something fun to do nearby, as well as invite friends.

T2 Mood Tracker

FREE by National Center for Telehealth and Technology

Tracking your moods can be hard, but T2 Mood Tracker gives you all the tools you need to monitor your mental state. Use a swipe bar to approximate your moods in different categories and make note of significant events and medication changes. With enough data, it will show you how your moods shift over time and the factors that influence them. It’s a very valuable tool to share with your health care provider when they make decisions about your treatment plan.

Anxiety

Many of these apps are also based on CBT. If you are struggling with any type of anxiety, phobia, anger management, insomnia, or substance abuse, please also see the list below, as well as the list for meditation and relaxation.

iCouch CBT

$1.99 by iCouch, Inc.

This app uses CBT to decrease anxiety and depression by training you to be aware of irrational or negative thoughts. It then helps you change those thoughts to more realistic or positive ones. This app will take you through a step-by-step process to examine upsetting thoughts and then challenge them. You'll learn that as you change thoughts, you will also change emotions, feelings, and behavior. The app also gives you the opportunity to track irrational thoughts during the week to discuss with your therapist in your in-person sessions.

PTSD Coach

FREE by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

PTSD Coach is for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and those interested in learning more about PTSD. It offers education about PTSD, self-assessment, opportunities to find support, and tools to help you manage the stressors of daily life. Tools range from relaxation skills to positive self-talk and include many other self-help strategies, including anger management techniques.

Anxiety Forum

FREE by Evolution 2 Media

Anxiety Forum is a web-based support forum with resources for overcoming anxiety, phobias, and panic attacks. It’s free on both mobile and desktop, allowing you to post to discussions, track favorite discussion topics, keep up on research discoveries, read book reviews, access tips on managing anxiety, examine therapy treatment options, and gain peer support.

Weight Loss

Weight loss applications can be used to support structured commercial programs, such as Weight Watchers, or they can be used on their own. These apps serve to:

  1. Increase your awareness of caloric intake and output
  2. Track calories quickly and efficiently
  3. Improve your nutritional knowledge to support healthy food choices
  4. Provide motivational support and structure

Lose It!

FREE by FitNow

This app first calculates your daily caloric allowance based on your age, height, weight, exercise levels, and weight loss goals. Throughout the day, you log in meals and snacks to track calories. It includes a comprehensive database of foods so you can look up calories and nutritional information quickly and then save the information to your favorites so you don't have to search again. You can also calculate the benefits of any exercise you do during the day to increase your daily caloric allowance.

MyFitnessPal

FREE by Under Armour, Inc.

This is a fast and easy way to count calories. It has a very large food database with 11 million food entries (including fast foods) as well as a recipe calculator. You can save or memorize favorite meals and use a bar code scanner to look up nutritional information and track all major nutrients. You can also diet with friends by tracking and supporting each other's programs.

Fooducate

FREE by Fooducate, Ltd.

Fooducate grades your groceries, explains what's really inside each product, and offers healthier alternatives. Scan the bar code of any food product with your phone's camera and you'll get an instant assessment of its nutritional value, such as excessive sugar, tricky trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, additives, preservatives, and food colorings. It will also offer healthier alternatives.

MealSnap

$1.99 by Petr Rusanov

Keeping a food diary is a lot easier with an app like MealSnap. Simply take a photo of each meal with the app, and it will keep them organized by date, time, and your description of what you ate. It’s a great way to log your meals, especially if you’re working with a nutritionist or any other professional on your weight loss journey.

MOVE! Coach

FREE by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Not only will this app help you track your daily diet and exercise on your weight loss journey, but it also comes with self-management guides to help you overcome barriers.

Meditation

Research continues to reflect many significant benefits of meditation, such as improving mood, stress, focus, concentration, sleep, blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol, and chronic pain.

When people are new to meditation, they often worry that they are not doing it right or they are not sure if it's working. These apps can help by offering instruction, structure, and support. By making meditation a regular part of your daily routine, you should start to notice positive results within a few weeks.

Yoga with Janet Stone

$3.99 with Janet Stone
This app includes 13 meditations that you can use with or without yoga practice. If you'd like to try the yoga, you can select your fitness level and your fitness goals, such as strength or flexibility. The audio and video guides instruct and lead you through all the moves for a complete yoga session, whether you are a beginner or more advanced.

Relax and Rest Guided Meditations

$1.99 by Meditation Oasis
You can choose from three meditations — a five-minute, 13-minute, or 24-minute program. Then, you can customize them with your own preferences such as the type of background music or the nature sounds that you prefer.

Relax and Sleep Well Hypnosis

FREE by Diviniti Publishing, Ltd.
This free app is a 27-minute hypnosis recording by a bestselling self-help audio author, Glenn Harrold. His recording is designed to help you alleviate stress and anxiety, as well as reduce insomnia.

Buddhify

$2.99 by Mindfulness Everywhere, Ltd.
This lighthearted, playful app is advertised as "meditation done differently" and is designed for busy people on the go. You can practice a different mindfulness meditation depending on what you’re doing and/or how you’re feeling. Meditations are broken up into categories such as Walking, Stress & Difficult Emotion, Work Break, Going to Sleep, and more.

Headspace

Available by subscription ($12.99/month) by Headspace, Inc.

Headspace is a very popular app that teaches you how to meditate. It includes free guided meditations that are broken down by your goals — whether that be productivity, managing anxiety, improving your sleep, etc.

Calm

Available by subscription ($14.99/month) by Calm

Calm is a mindfulness app for beginners that includes guided meditations, breathing programs, stretching exercises, relaxing music, and even bedtime stories (for adults and kids!). Rated one of the Best of 2018 by Apple, it’s one of the most popular apps in its category.

Insight Timer

FREE by Insight Network, Inc.

Talk about a robust library — this app provides over 35,000 guided meditations. It’s also a great resource to help you get started with meditation if you’re new to it (check out their free 7-day course).

Sleep

Research has found that sleep disruption and mood disorders are strongly linked. If you have insomnia, you’re 10 times more likely to develop clinical depression and 17 times more likely to develop clinical anxiety. The reverse is also true: Both anxiety and depression can lead to sleep problems.

Addressing your sleep issues can be an important part of your mental health treatment plan. Below are some apps that can help you both track your sleep and get better rest.

Dream EZ

FREE by National Center for Telehealth & Technology

This app helps you rewrite your nightmares based on the principles of imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT). Designed to be used with a therapist who’s trained in IRT, this tool helps you track the intensity of your dreams and their disturbing elements. It also has relaxation exercises and reminders to practice re-scripted dreams before going to sleep.

Sleep Cycle

FREE with an optional premium subscription ($29.99/year) by Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle is a smart alarm that wakes you up every morning while you’re in your lightest sleep phase. This is the most natural way to wake up for optimal energy throughout the day. It will also analyze your sleep trends. More features for premium subscribers include longer-term sleep analysis and a heart monitor.

CBT-i Coach

FREE by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Whether you’re using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with your therapist or you just need new strategies to improve your sleep, CBT-i Coach can help. It allows you to track your sleep habits and provides relaxation exercises you can use when you’re unable to sleep, all while walking you through a structured program that’s proven to alleviate insomnia.

—Compiled by Ekua Hagan for Orange County Health Psychologists