I cut my ties with social media a few years ago and so far, have not felt tempted to return. Accounts were deactivated and apps were deleted once I found myself stuck in a cycle, wasting hours mindlessly scrolling through timelines and refreshing newsfeeds. Additionally, I found it exasperating to constantly be reminded of where my peers were at in life — earning promotions, buying houses, getting married and having babies, all whilst I continually felt so lost. I understand that many people love social media and the benefits it can offer, and if it works for you then that’s great. My elimination of these apps was for me and my own mental wellbeing. Once I ended my relationship with social media, I found myself in a much better mental state than when I was fruitlessly scrolling first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
My lack of social media, however, does not mean I am without my smartphone and the multitude of apps it offers. I appreciate the technology we have access to, and there is an app for everything in today’s digital age. With this in mind, I am providing a small list of apps that have been beneficial for me in recent months, particularly in regard to mental wellbeing. It was my mental health that suffered when I was wasting hours scanning another newsfeed, feeling sorry for myself because another girl I hadn’t spoken to in ten years was engaged.
Developed by Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist Monk, Headspace is a great app to introduce you to the world of meditation. Like me, you may have never considered meditation an option before now, and Headspace is perfect for beginners who are unsure ‘if they are even doing it right,’ and therefore feel the urge to bow out after one ineffective attempt. As the app gently reminds you, it is called practicing meditation for a reason. I was sceptical of the whimsical cartoons to begin with, however after the superb animation in session 7 in which they liken the mind to a blue sky, scattered with clouds, it all began making sense to me; there is always a clear mind somewhere inside your consciousness — you simply have to harness your ability to find it, and meditation can help with this.
The app is free to download and you get ten free meditation sessions at no extra cost. You can choose whether you want to do 3, 5, or 10 minutes each session. Andy’s ever-so-relaxing-voice guides you through, and reminds you not to worry if your mind wanders, softly encouraging you to bring it back to the present and focus on other feelings.
After ten meditation sessions, you have to subscribe to unlock the rest of the content, but for me it has been beneficial to use the free sessions just to get introduced to the practice. If you subscribe to the app and fork out a fair bit of money to do so (£9.99 p/m, £74.99 p/a or a lifetime subscription for a one-off payment of £399.99), you get access to tailored sessions that are focused on specific worries such as struggling to sleep, or preparing for job interviews.
So far, Headspace has been awesome at easing me into something which I never thought I would get to grips with. It has simplified the meditation process without losing sight of its main purpose.
Surprise, surprise! An exercise app is beneficial! How very ~groundbreaking~ of me. This is not on the list because of any links it may have to weight loss. I have been trying for years to find a running routine that works for me, to no avail. I will consistently run for a few weeks and then ultimately become unmotivated because I feel I’m not making any real progress/kind of suck at it.
The Nike+ Running Club app has changed the way I think about running, and I am now a month into using it and finally discovering the sheer fulfilment that running can produce in both body and mind. Better still, at no point have I felt ‘not good enough’. Instead, I feel proud and tenacious after every run, even when I’m an unfortunate shade of crimson and soaked in sweat.
My favourite feature on the app is the Guided Runs. Depending on what mood you’re in and what mileage you want to commit to that day, they have a variety of audio with different coaches (joined by a few famous faces) to keep you motivated, informed, and remind you of why you started this run in the first place. One of the coaches on my personal favourite Guided Run, Mindful Miles, is the aforementioned Andy Puddicombe (he’s not paying me to write this, believe it or not). He provides advice on how to remain focused during your runs; concentrating on breathing and feeling strong in the present (similar to his methods of teaching meditation practice with Headspace). He reminds you: don’t let your attention prematurely leap ahead to the end of the run, or tomorrow’s run, or any other runs that have been or will be. Simply, focus on each step you make, the rhythm of each stride, and in turn, running can help clear your mind. You will likely find that you are able to run for longer using this technique. Most importantly, you may find your head feels clearer at the end of a mindful run.
The app also tracks your progress, can provide a tailored running plan suited to your body and your fitness levels, and the satisfying feeling of unlocking their badges of achievement encourages you to run further and more frequently. There are tons of apps that are useful for getting into shape, but none have helped me with the mental aspects of running like this one has.
I feel guilty to admit I haven’t read a book, cover to cover, for a few months. My excuse was the classic: I don’t have the time. The beauty of an audiobook is that whenever you have a moment, such as your daily commute, driving, cooking, or simply walking, all you need to do is pop in your headphones and you can be basking in literary paradise — all whilst getting additional tasks completed. It’s useful and enjoyable. On the train, for example, I would bring a book with me for my commute (wishful thinking). The chaos of rush hour and the lack of carriage space meant I barely had room to move, let alone hold a book in front of me. Now, even when I’m hemmed into the aisle, jostled from side to side, I am able to mute the rush hour madness and enjoy some solace with the latest novel or nonfiction I’m into — all I need are my headphones.
There are tons of audiobook apps, but I find Audible useful as it is synced with my Amazon account. You have to subscribe to the service, but can receive the first month free and cancel at any time. If you do stick with it, you get one credit every month to redeem against any audiobook. It’s a nice, relaxing thing to do if you need to unwind, and perhaps are unable to take the time to sit down and read.
Regardless of your stance on social media, maybe one of these apps could benefit you in some way. If you enjoy using social media, then that’s great too, however be mindful that not everything you see on there is a true reflection of how others live their lives. Catch up with friends face to face instead of through a screen, and don’t feel pressured to document every aspect of your life online simply because you feel you need to prove something to your peers. Try limiting your time on social websites and see how it affects you, you might be surprised at the positive change it can bring.