The importance of taking care of your mental health cannot be stressed enough, especially during difficult times like a global pandemic. The good news is that technology has opened up new avenues of mental health support that everyone can easily access. We’ve researched and selected seven of the best mental health apps for Android with science backing that you can use for free.
As the use of mental health apps grows, it’s important to know that not all apps are created the same. Just because there are so many options doesn’t mean they all work. In this case, a select minority of applications are based on scientific evidence and have been shown to be beneficial for mental health, while a large majority are simply ineffective. Also, many of these apps hide some of their more advanced features behind a payment wall. This list below is only for those that offer robust options even in free mode.
Note: Apps are a tool that helps with mental health and cannot replace actual medical treatment or advice.
Price: Free / $ 14.95
Happify is an app that deals with various mental ailments including stress, anxiety, PTSD and mood disorders.
Happify was part of a randomized controlled trial, the results of which were published in the International Journal of Wellbeing. The study found that participants who used the app at the recommended level reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as greater resilience after eight weeks.
Additionally, PsyberGuide, a group of mental health experts that operates out of the University of California at Irvine and Northwestern University, has also endorsed the app.
The app works by suggesting a number of activities based on a series of initial assessment questionnaires. There are a number of free tracks available to follow in Happify. Each includes suggested activities, such as pursuing the “power of the positive”. This is a simple game that aims to help users improve their ability to experience positive moods.
The app provides users with a database of videos, articles, and meditations. It also has an Instagram inspired social component where users can interact with each other.
Another advantage of Happify is that it offers accessibility features for the visually impaired or hearing impaired through the accessibility features. For those who want more advanced features like information on your progress and access to the full catalog of resources, you will need to upgrade to the paid version.
Price: Free / $ 12.99
Calm is one of the most popular mediation apps, a close competitor to Headspace. We did not include the latter in our list because Calm offers a wider variety of options thanks to its free tier.
A study by researchers at Arizona State University, Redlands University, and the Behavior Research and Analytics Center, which included a total of 88 participants – all college students, found Calm to be an effective modality for practicing mindfulness meditation to reduce stress. and improve mindfulness and self-compassion in stressed students.
The app creates a personalized action plan for you based on information about your current moods and personal improvement goals.
Calm strives first to create a relaxing atmosphere so that you can relax through audio and visual signals. When it comes to meditation, the app offers guided sessions as well as unguided meditations with new and constantly evolving programs.
Additionally, Calm includes access to breathing exercises as well as sleep stories (premium only). The app is also kid friendly via the Calm Kids tab. Access to the seven-day introductory program and additional content is free.
Price: Free / $ 4.99
MoodMission is an app created to help people track their mood to counter feelings of anxiety or depression.
MoodMission was part of a randomized controlled trial conducted by the Society of Clinical Psychology in 2019, which included two other applications. The results showed that participants who used any of the apps experienced an improvement in their mental well-being. MoodMission users have also reported a decrease in the symptoms of depression.
MoodMission users are required to complete a series of surveys that assess how they feel. Once this step is completed, the app will start to delve deeper into your state of mind via additional question sets. The more users interact with the application, the more it manages to offer activities tailored to specific needs.
MoodMission will recommend assignments or tasks with an explanation attached as to why they may be useful. An example of this is walking three minutes around the block. When the task is complete, MoodMission will return follow-up questions to you to assess any changes in behavior.
The app boasts an attractive design, and most of its features are free, with a few paid options available. This includes adding your own missions and unlocking Expeditions to overcome particular fears.
Price: Free / $ 8.99
Sanvello is an app that uses the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress. The app benefits from a clean up-to-date interface and offers a fair amount of options for free.
According to the app’s official website, Sanvello was part of a randomized, wait-list controlled study that included 500 adults. The analysis concluded that using the app can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression over a period of 30 days. Participants also reported increased personal effectiveness.
Like all the apps described above, Sanvello allows users to complete a questionnaire when they first log into the app to assess their current mental state. Users are then prompted to select goals from a list of eight options, including “be happier” and “find hope”. Additionally, they are encouraged to set reminders to allow the app to show up and check on them throughout the day.
Notable features include a library of articles, videos, and guided meditations as well as mood[ and goal-tracking tools. In addition, Sanvello boasts a couple of social elements. For example, users can access a community message where they can connect with fellow anxiety and depression sufferers. A journaling option is also available for those who wish to keep track of their emotions in writing.
Extra features like being able to select a soothing background and the ability to create a music playlist via Spotify are nice to have as well.
Sanvello’s Premium tier unlocks the full library of resources as well as a therapy service. Sessions are provided by licensed counselors or therapists who will connect with the patient via the app’s video conferencing tool. This service is currently only available in the U.S.
5. Calm Harm
Calm Harm is an app targeted at people who are trying to manage urges to self-harm. It’s built around the principles of dialectic behavior therapy (DBT) which has been found to provide relief for people suffering from mood disorders.
The NSH recommends this app as a valid tool to aid with the suppression of self-harming thoughts.
The app takes advantage of a clean interface and is not riddled with unnecessary features or intrusions. Users are shadowed throughout their journey with the app by a series of colorful mascots that can be customized. To combat the urge to do self-harm, the app serves up a list of exercisees which are grouped under several categories including Comfort, Distract, Release, and more.
To get started, simply tap on one of the categories and select an exercise from the list that appears. Each of the exercises is timed and can either take five or 15 minutes. Each successfully completed activity is logged in the app to track progress. Other noteworthy features include keeping a journal and the option to add your own calming activities to the app.
Price: Free / $5.99
eQuoo is a really unique app in the sea of mental health apps. It’s structured like a fun game, but its quests and missions are designed to teach users important psychological concepts such as emotional bids, generalization, and reciprocity through storytelling and gamification.
eQuoo was part of a five-week, three-arm randomized controlled trial with 358 participants. The results revealed that using the app has the potential to significantly raise mental well-being and lower anxiety.
The app’s content is based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and stars Dr. Joy, your host who will walk you through all the quests eQuoo has to offer. Using the app is super simple: just follow the questions and answer the questions to level up and unlock new teaching moments.
If you select the wrong answer, don’t worry, as there’s no failing in eQuoo. Instead, the app does its best to teach you how to understand others better and respond to their needs appropriately.
eQuoo also includes a database of articles so users can better understand the concepts they have learned. Some in-app purchases are available. For example, the Starter Pack unlocks additional content.
Woebot adds a new spin to regular therapy sessions. Powered by an AI that relies on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Woebot provides users with emotional support and advice through chat 24/7.
Scientists at the Stanford School of Medicine included Woebot in a randomized controlled trial in 2017. The study concluded that conversational agents are a feasible, engaging, and effective way to deliver CBT. What’s more, participants in the Woebot group managed to significantly reduce their symptoms of depression over the experimental period.
Boasting a minimalist, intuitive interface, Woebot gets right to the chase as soon as you open the app. The therapy bot immediately starts asking questions to which you can answer either by typing your response or simply choosing one of the options available.
The app tracks your mood over a period of eight weeks and will check in with you every day (at a time that is convenient for you). Woebot periodically invites you to join in to chat while also gently nudging you toward creating healthy habits like keeping a gratitude journal.
While daily sessions don’t take very long to complete, you can message Woebot anytime, and it will respond no matter the hour or day or night.
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for optimal mental health, so while you’re here, why don’t you also check out our list of the best sleep-tracker apps to make sure you improve your sleeping cycle, too.
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