After reading Human Computer Interaction in eLearning, I was thinking about how our modern use of technology impacts on our mental wellbeing and resilience. I have read lots of blogs and news articles saying that the modern online 24/7 culture is bad for us. But what if we flip that on its head, and look at what this technology can do for us?
I decided to check out what free apps are available to help reduce stress, improve focus and help with mindfulness. Here is what I found…
GPS for the Soul
Created by Huffington Post, this app contains articles, meditation guides and videos created by experts such as Daniel Goleman, Deepak Chopra and Thich Nhat Hanh. The idea behind the app is that we all have a ‘centre point’ of harmony and balance, and that we all tend to stray away from that point.
The app aims to help you get back to your centre point using music, poetry, breathing exercises and pictures. You can use the guides provided or create your own. The guides also have a simple, unobtrusive breathing guide at the bottom of the screen. This is definitely an app I want to investigate further!
Update January 2018: GPS for the Soul appears to have been discontinued, but please have a look at The Mindfulness App (available for both Apple and Android devices). It comes with a 5-day introduction to mindfulness and the premium section contains over 200 meditations and courses.
Headspace is probably the most well-known mindfulness app. You start with the free Take10 programme, where you are talked through the basics of meditation by Andy Puddicombe in 10 x 10 minute sessions. If you want to go further then you’ll need to subscribe. The app includes a progress tracker, targets for ‘run streaks’ (the number of days in a row that you have meditated) and a buddy feature.
Breathing Well (only available on Android, note: full version is paid for)
This is a very simple app, and was developed to address problems caused by dysfunctional breathing and posture. Only the most basic functions are available without paying for the upgrade. I can see that this might be a useful tool for anyone who is suffering from anxiety, panic attacks or hyperventilation and needs to regulate their breathing. I would suggest using one of the ‘Reduced Breathing’ sessions using the balloon animation type, maybe even visualising the balloon as your lungs, going in and out as you breathe.
Sometimes when you are stressed and it can be hard to focus, your brain is hopping from one panicky thought to another! Spending some time training your brain can help you with focus and this is a nice relaxing app for doing just that, using simple but fun games. The games include memory, spatial awareness, logic, patterns and planning. You can change the difficulty of each game to keep stretching yourself.
This is similar to headspace, in that it teaches you the basics of meditation through the ‘7 days of calm’. The free version includes these seven guided meditation sessions but you can also create your own meditation using the background sounds and immersive nature scenes. The app comes with four scenes but there are more available to download. Using the timer you can set up your own tailored meditation, turning off the sound or images if you prefer.
For some reason I found the realistic movement of the scenes much more relaxing than just a static image. There is more content such as guided meditations for anxiety release, creativity and confidence if you upgrade to the pro version.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas and may want to try some of these apps to help you reduce stress or improve your resilience.
Teresa Lovell, Design Specialist, Bray Leino Learning
Teresa creates all our infographics for us and they cover a wide range of topics. In her blogs she not only gives tips on software and design, but she also discusses other topics that catch her eye and she hopes you find them interesting.
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