5 Must-Have Apps and Plug-Ins That Support Your Well-Being (and How to Unplug When It's Time for a Break)

It seems like you can hardly scroll through your social media without coming across an article about how our obsession with screens and modern-day technology can have all sorts of negative effects on your health (oh, the irony).

From research about how TV affects your sleep habits to your phone making it difficult for you to concentrate as you await the ping of your next notification, it’s easy to get behind the idea that too much technology is just generally bad news for your health.1,2

But What About Technology That Could Actually Support Your Well-Being?

It’s a good bet that our beloved screens, and whatever effects they may have on us, aren’t going anywhere soon. So instead of trying to completely avoid your electronic devices altogether (and getting really frustrated when you can’t), why not leverage the marvels of modern technology to help your well-being?

Check out a couple of really interesting apps and plug-ins that may do just that.

Intently

Nobody particularly likes seeing ads…but they’ve also become so pervasive in our online and mobile experience that we kind of tune them out. The problem is, even if you’re not consciously paying attention to them, they can have a big impact on your mindset, mood, and stress levels.

Intently is a plug-in that replaces all of those annoying images of ads with inspirational images specifically tailored to your interests and desires. That way, instead of seeing an ad for those jeans you clicked on a couple of weeks ago pop up everywhere you go, you see inspirational images, quotes, and affirmations all custom designed for you. It’s the ultimate way to bring your vision board to life.

And for an added dose of inspiration, Intently will give you an image and affirmation every time you open a new tab on your browser. It may not seem like much, but just having those few seconds of mental breathing space before you start browsing can make a difference in your mood that really adds up over time.

Headspace

Just like closing down all of your apps helps your phone run faster and makes your battery last longer, taking the time to clear out the cobwebs of thoughts in our heads can help combat stress, keep us focused on the present, and help us feel more joyful.

Headspace is a great app that teaches you how to meditate in as little as 10 minutes a day. That might sound really short, but even a little bit of meditation, done daily, can have far-reaching effects on your health, including everything from your immunity to your mood to your sleep.4,5

Once you've got the basics down with Headspace's free intro course, you can also subscribe to get access to their library of themed meditations, so whether you need a quick boost of creativity before you head into a meeting, some perspective on a relationship, or a pause in a rough day, they've got you covered.

MapMyRun

Research shows that exercise can help you manage stress, strengthen your immune system, and even help diversify your gut bacteria (which supports the core of your overall health). But one of the biggest barriers to exercising always seems to be getting the details figured out so you can actually get out the door and do what you want to do. Exercise apps like MapMyRun can't make sure that your workout clothes are clean or fill up your water bottle, but they can help you with pretty much everything else, including tracking your activity so you can see improvements in your speed and endurance, mapping out a route in advance, and even logging your food.

Best part? You can get a whole team of virtual running buddies together so you have all the encouragement (and maybe even a little healthy competition) you need as you're pounding the pavement.

Oh, and if you start to get bored, you've always got the option to do a challenge. MapMyRun regularly comes up with fun events for the community, ranging from month-long challenges to running a thousand-plus miles in a year.

Thrive Market

The Internet has made us all more connected than ever, and while that does have its downsides, the opportunity to connect with brands that produce and sell healthy, natural, organic products is a huge benefit. It’s not always easy to grab the good-for-your-gut fare at the grocery store with the kids in tow, so Thrive Market is a convenient and easy way to keep your family healthy when you’re short on time.

Thrive Market produces a curated catalogue of organic and non-GMO brands through their convenient app, so it's a great place to stock up on everything from food to beauty products. Many of their products are offered at a discount, too!

Plus, by buying through them, you support their initiatives to get healthy food to people who would otherwise struggle to find or afford it, so by using this particular technology, you're not just improving your own well-being; you're helping others improve theirs too!

Space

Have you ever found yourself picking up your phone, opening an app, putting your phone back down, only to do the same thing all over again a few minutes later? Or maybe you keep thinking that you hear a notification on your phone, only to find that there’s nothing there most of the time?

You might think it’s because you don’t have strong enough willpower, but actually, it’s just the way our brains respond to this type of technology.

You see, our brains have developed to respond to novelty with a burst of the chemical dopamine, which feels like a reward to the brain.3 When the novelty is intermittent, the payoff feels even better. Translation: when you behave in a way that gets you a dopamine hit, whether that’s opening an app or pulling the lever on a slot machine, you’re really well placed to form a habit of doing that action over and over again. That’s why it’s so easy to get into the habit of constantly checking your phone, or opening that one app every couple of minutes.

Space is an app that’s designed to disrupt that pattern of action-novelty-reward with a few seconds of breathing room. The way it works is that after you download the app, you associate it with whichever app you want to get some space from. The next time you click to open the app, a screen pops up with a short prompt to breathe. Then the app opens. It’s simple, but again, having those few seconds of mental space between the action and the reward can really disrupt that habit, taking you back to the feelings of freedom from the good old days, before we were all tethered to our devices.

Apps and Plug-Ins Aside, How Can I Improve My Relationship With Technology?

Of course, you don't have to get an app or use a specific company to have a better relationship with technology. There are lots of simple things you can do to make things better, including:

1. Try keeping your newsfeeds and emails out of the bedroom.

Whether you’re checking your phone first thing in the morning or watching TV late at night, having technology in the bedroom isn’t the most relaxing thing, so consider keeping your technology somewhere other than your bedroom. It might seem a little strange at first, but if you’re experiencing better sleep and lower stress levels, that’s excellent news for your health in general.

2. Move those go-to apps off your home screen.

It’s really easy to start using those time-suck apps if they’re right in front of you every time you pick up your phone, so consider moving them to another screen, ideally putting them in a folder so they’re not quite so visible. It’s a small thing, but even just a couple of seconds of delay can give you some space to think about whether you really want to use that app right now and help you escape that chronic sense of stimulation that’s so prevalent in our lives today.

3. Change the way you get notifications.

If you get the same type of notification for everything, try changing things up so you know exactly what kind of notification you’re getting. You can even group them by themes: for instance, all your social media notifications could have one sound, calls from your family could have another, etc. That way you won’t be so tempted to respond to every single notification; if you know what it is, you can choose when to respond.

4. Take regular technology breaks.

It's really easy to get so used to being constantly attached to your devices that you forget what it's like to really disconnect. But building little technology breaks into your day or week can really make a difference in your well-being, not to mention how you experience the world around you. Try stepping away from your screens on a schedule that works for you––maybe every evening after dinner, or all day on Sundays. It's amazing just how different the world looks when you're seeing it through your own eyes, rather than the lens of your camera, complete with filter!

5. If nothing else, just be aware.

Do your best to monitor yourself continually to see how present you are. You don't have to make this into a big thing, and you don't have to try to make yourself feel guilty for using your devices, but do be aware of what's going on. Because let's be honest: I know you don't want to miss a divine moment with your child or partner because you're scrolling through a comment from someone you haven't seen since grade school! And I know you don't want to sacrifice your real life for your virtual life. So just be aware of what's going on, and then make decisions that line up with what you really value: your family, your friends, and your real life.

Ultimately, a positive relationship with your treasured devices comes down to getting a little more balance in your life––and that's something we're always up for! These simple shifts can help you become more aware of how you're using technology so you can keep your screen-time in check, prioritize what matters, and reach your wellness goals along the way.

References:

1. Brunborg, G.S., Mentzoni, R.A., Molde, H. Myrseth, H. Skouverøe, K.J.M., Bjorvatn, B., Pallesen, S. (2011). The Relationship Between Media Use in the Bedroom, Sleep Habits and Symptoms of Insomnia. Journal of Sleep Research 20(4). doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2011.00913.x

2. Wilmer H.H., Sherman L.E., and Chein J.M. (2017). Smartphones and Cognition: A Review of Research Exploring the Links between Mobile Technology Habits and Cognitive Functioning. Frontiers Psychology 8(605). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00605

3. Kringelbach, M.L, Berridge, K.C. (2010). The Functional Neuroanatomy of Pleasure and Happiness. Discovery Medicine 9(49).

4. Davidson, R.J., Kabat‐Zinn, J., Schumacher, J. Rosenkranz, M. . . . Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine 65(4). doi: 10.1097/01.PSY.0000077505.67574.E3

5. Woolfolk, R.L. Carr-Kaffashan, L., McNulty, T.F., Lehrer P.M. (1976). Meditation Training as a Treatment for Insomnia. Behavior Therapy 7(4). doi: 10.1016/S0005-7894(76)80064-040

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Rachel Allen is a writer at Hyperbiotics who's absolutely obsessed with learning about how our bodies work. She's fascinated by the latest research on bacteria and the role they play in health, and loves to help others learn about how probiotics can help the body get back in balance. For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.

Posted in Clean Living, Energy Exercise & Performance, Lifestyle


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