These free stress-management apps can help you live a calmer, more focused, energized life—whether or not you experience chronic pain.
Apps are organized by the stress-relieving action they address.
Stress factor: Compassion meditation
Meditation is increasingly studied for its positive impact on reducing chronic pain. National Institutes of Health found meditation relieved pain in a study of 78 healthy adults. Another study concluded it may help reduce stress for long-term caregivers.
Stop, Breath & Think focuses on compassion (which may buffer against stress impact on its own) meditations in particular, but tailors your practice to how you feel in the moment you check in. Then you can track your emotions before and after the meditation.
Stress factors: Breathing, visualizations, sounds, nature, gratitude
Calm incorporates a wide range of activities proven to reduce stress. Some of them are multi-day practices, including a series for growing resilience, and fictional stories with sound and visualizations to help you sleep.
Stress factors: Rituals, exercise, health
Fabulous takes a more all-encompassing approach to building better habits through incremental lifestyle changes. Developed in the behavioral economics lab at Duke University, methods are backed by proven research.
You can choose one of four habits to focus on changing (sleep better, feel more energized, concentrate and focus, or lose weight) and it provides the tools to help you: alarms, reminders to buy certain groceries, recipes, short workouts and meditations, etc.
Stress factor: Laughter
If you’d like an app to connect you to more laughter, try podcasts. Overcast is one that works well with iOs—just search for comedy or humor. Android’s best free bet currently is probably Podbean. For more directly wellness-based laughter strategies, you could also try Laughter Yoga.
Stress factor: Fun, art
Casual games are fun. And fun and games can reduce stress. This game combines art with puzzles and a calming aesthetic. You move tiles to arrange them in chromatic order. The result is a mental challenge alongside soothing phrases, music and colors. This incorporates the benefits of calming imagery, mantras and audio alongside a bit of art therapy, also shown to reduce stress.
Stress factor: Doing good, having purpose
Helping others is a proven way to reduce stress. A handful of apps exist to give you ideas or help you set goals for random acts of kindness. Acts of Random Kindness is a user-friendly and colorful way to track and inspire a certain amount of kind acts per day, month or year.
You can go a little farther with an app like KarmaSnap, which is still in the beta (or testing) phase. KarmaSnap seeks to connect you with local nonprofits or personal causes as well as interactive communities based on your interests. It also prompts acts of kindness.
Stress factor: Writing, gratitude
Science shows writing can help people who have experienced trauma or who have chronic illness to cope. It can also help with focus and stress relief. OmmWriting isn’t actually an app but you can run it from any web browser. It’s great for cutting out all the distractions on your screen so that you might write a little more freely. If you prefer the app route, Bliss is a gratitude journal that helps guide your writing toward thankfulness, another beneficial activity for your mental health.
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