Part 1 of this series can be found here
Today, I continue to revisit another old post, My Wellness Toolbox. I do this because it’s evolved since the original was published, the primary evolution being a growth in the use of smartphone apps. Those apps are the focus of today’s post.
MY CALMTAINER(S) 2 – MY SMARTPHONE
From the very beginning, my android smartphone has been a useful part of my CALMtainer. Initially, it was only used to store guided meditations I’d listen to while travelling on the bus. However, as I upgraded my phone I started to add more data to it including the ebooks and audiobooks mentioned in Part 1 of this series. I also started to explore and install wellness apps. Now, my smartphone has evolved into its own CALMtainer, a virtual CALMtainer, that’s with me all the time to help me tolerate distress.
Please note that I have an android smartphone. I’ve used the site, fnd.io to help me determine if an app is also available on the App Store. While I provide you with the result I got from fnd.io I can’t confirm its accuracy.
My use of apps begins with Twitter and tumblr. I joined Twitter in September 2015. Over the past two years I’ve tweeted extensively on mental health. I tweet about my attempt, my Major Depressive Disorder and my recovery. My involvement with tumblr is more recent, having joined only a month or so ago after discovering a number of mental health tumbls. My posts on tumblr are also mental health related. The Twitter and tumblr apps are also available on the App store.
I use Google Drive to store additional ebooks, audiobooks and meditations to the cloud. This way I can access them from any device at any time. Google Drive is available on the App Store.
To read ebooks I use either Google Play Books or an app called Librera Pro. Librera is a multi-format book reader, reasonably priced, and packed full of features. It’s my go to epub reader. Google Play Books is available on the App Store.
To listen to audiobooks and meditations, I rely on my phone’s built in media player or use Smart AudioBook Player a reasonably priced and highly rated app designed for audiobooks.
On my phone I’ve dedicated two screens to wellness apps. The first of these is dedicated to the apps I use and is the focus of this post. The second dedicated screen is to the apps I’m investigating. Both screens are ever changing as new apps are added. In fact, this post is the third iteration of the apps that I use. You can find the original versions on the Healthy Minds Canada Supportive Minds blog here and here.
I’ll begin with the bottom row and work to the top.
The first app I use is the Virtual Hope Box. The developer describes it as a way for you “to store a variety of rich multimedia content that [you] find personally supportive in times of need”. It takes the ideas behind the CALMtainer and allows you to use them on your phone. I use it to link to photos and videos to supplement my wellness tools. You can also find VHB on the App Store.
The next app I use is My Affirmations. A reasonably priced app, it offers positive affirmations throughout your day. The feature I like is the ability to add my own affirmations using a simple text file. I have it set to deliver affirmations four times each day.
Next up is the 5 Minute Journal app. Based on the printed book of the same name “it focuses your attention on the good in your life and helps you set purposeful action in just 5 minutes a day”. Again, a reasonably priced app, I use it to capture moments of gratitude that might otherwise be overlooked. You’re prompted each morning to begin your day with gratitude, and prompted to end each day in contemplation of what made your day good. Also found on the App Store.
The Breathe app is extremely simple. You follow the guide to control your breathing. I use it to help calm me at the beginning of a period of distress. Free.
Along the right side of the screen are some of my meditation apps (I’ll discuss a few more below). They are:
- Insight Timer: Free with IAP. The app is a portal to a diverse array of meditations, over five thousand of them. The downside is that it isn’t as structured an app as Headspace or Calm, but did I mention it’s free? Also found on the App Store.
- buddhify: buddhify is a reasonably priced collection of guided meditations. Available on the App Store.
- Stop, Breathe & Think. Free with IAP. The app begins with a meditation instruction guide that teaches you how to get the most out of meditating. Also on the App Store.
- Mindfulness: The Art of Being: the first app I purchased, is all “about getting OUT of your mind and INTO your life!” through a series of guided meditations. This can be found on the App Store as well.
Mindfulness: The Art of Being, Stop, Breathe & Think and buddhify don’t have the breadth of Insight Timer, but they do provide a structure to your meditating which may help you if you are new to the practice. Additionally, because I have so many meditation apps, I’m sure to always find a meditation that fits my mood.
Binaural offers a basic binaural beat and isochronic tones generator. The built in meditations help me with sleep. Free.
Across the top of the screen are a series of folders: Suicide Prevention, Mindfulness, Mind Your Mind, Excel at Life and ACT CBT DBT.
The apps for Suicide Prevention are self-explanatory. Suicidal ideations are all too common for me and having apps that help to calm me, as these do, is integral to my safety and recovery. My apps include suicide prevention apps 1 and 2 from Durham Mental Health Services. The DHMS apps are local to me and include information on local crisis lines that I can use. In addition, I also have The LifeLine, another Canadian based app and SPA, a general suicide prevention app. Each of these apps is free. Both DHMS apps and The Lifeline are also available on the App Store.
The Mindfulness Folder contains yet more meditation apps including:
- Mindfulness: Getting Started: a collection of four meditation to jump start your practice. Free. Also on the App Store.
- Mindfulness: Caring for Me: a collection of five meditations to continue along your meditation path. Free. Also on the App Store.
- Mindfulness: The Art of Being (Lite): the free version of the app mentioned above. I liked it so much I bought the full version. Also available on the App Store.
- Let’s Meditate: a collection of thirty meditations. Free.
- Mindful Life Project: a mindfulness resource app. Free. Available on the App Store.
- Take 5 and Take 10: collections of nine five minute and five ten minute meditations. Both are free and also available on the App Store.
- Smiling Mind: “a unique web and app-based program developed by psychologists and educators to help bring balance to people’s lives.” Free. Available on the App Store.
The Mind Your Mind folder includes the apps from that site. BeSafe allows you to create a digital safety plan. If you’re in Ontario Canada, that plan can also include local sources of crisis help. While I do have a Safety Plan already, I don’t carry it around with me. Having a digital plan allows me to have one with me at all times. Releaf provides daily, simple and beneficial challenges to boost your energy and health. It does this by sending you a daily challenge at a time set by you. Mind Your Mood allows you to track, as the name implies, your mood. It’s designed primarily for youth but I find it’s equally usable by adults. All are free and available on the App Store.
Excel At Life is a developer of basic Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) tools. Each of the apps are free, with ads, or you can buy the Excel At Life App have access to them ad-free. That’s what I did. While basic, I find the apps to be both informative and useful. The apps are:
- Depression CBT Self-Help Guide: “This app contains a depression severity test, audios, articles, a cognitive diary, and a motivational points system that help you learn…to manage stress in your life and engage in self-care behaviours [that] can improve your symptoms and your mood.”
- Stop Panic and Anxiety: “This self-help method can provide the coaching many people need to cope with panic.”
- Qi Gong Meditation Relaxation: “Improve your physical health, relax and reduce your stress by learning Qi Gong, gentle movement combined with breathing. Qi Gong is a basic form of Tai Chi where you can experience the health benefits of Tai Chi without the years of training.”
- Happy Habits: Choose Happiness: “This app uses the techniques of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) from the positive psychology research to provide comprehensive tools to help create the conditions for happiness in your life.”
- Cognitive Diary CBT Self-Help: “[T]his app can teach you how to recognize thinking that interferes with achieving your goals in life and how to change that thinking.”
- Know Yourself Personality Test: “This app includes 30 tests covering 88 personality characteristics.”
- Jealousy Test & CBT Self-Help: “[T]his app uses the methods of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) to teach you how to address the irrational jealousy that interferes with your relationship.”
- Self-Esteem Blackboard: “This app was developed by a clinical psychologist using the methods of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) to help improve self-esteem.”
- Worry Box—Anxiety Self-Help: “Use the worry cognitive diary to help you determine how to cope with the worry. If it’s controllable, you can list the steps you can take to manage the worry. If it’s not controllable, select from the list of coping statements to help you think about it differently.”
- Cognitive Styles CBT Test: “By examining your thinking styles, you can learn to change them which can reduce anxiety, depression, and unreasonable anger. In addition, you can improve your self-esteem and your relationships.”
- SportPsych Performance Coach: ” It teaches the sport psychology techniques to enhance athletic performance and achieve success.”
- Know Yourself Personality Plus: a new and improved version of the Know Yourself Personality Test app.
The Final folder is the ACT CBT DBT folder Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), CBT and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) are three methods of treatment for mood disorders, including Major Depressive Disorder. The apps include:
- actcompanion: a paid for app, it’s the companion to the book “The Happiness Trap”. Both the book and the app use ACT principles as outlined in the book. ACT is “a scientifically supported mindfulness-based behaviour therapy” used to treat mood disorders. Also on the App Store.
- ACT Coach: ACT “aims to help you live with unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and impulses without avoiding them or being controlled by them. In ACT, you are encouraged to commit to actions so that you can live your life by your values, even in the face of these unpleasant experiences.” Free and available on the App Store.
- Dbt 112 (aka Dbt 911): my CALMtainers are DBT tools. That is, they help me manage or tolerate my distress and DBT is all about distress tolerance as well as other behaviours. “With this app you will quickly get a random distress tolerance skill to do.” Free.
- Thought Workbench: is a CBT tool to help you manage your thoughts. Thought management is a key tool, perhaps the key tool, in CBT treatment. Free.
- Thought Diary: is a simple tool to help you record and manage your thoughts. Free. On the App Store.
- TruReach: is a comprehensive CBT information app that breaks CBT down into quick lessons. Free and on the App Store.
My virtual CALMtainer is continuously evolving as I discover more apps. Additionally, it’s targeted to my specific needs. Nonetheless, I believe I’ve shown just how valuable your phone can be to your mental wellness. I encourage you to consider how you can put your smartphone to use for your wellness. And please, if you discover new apps, bring them to my attention. I’d love to hear from you.