Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year?

I usually don’t, but I decided to this year because I feel like I haven’t done anything since the pandemic started. One of my resolutions was to do more self-care, whether it’s meditation, journaling, reading, or whatever.

I’ve always been an anxious person, so I’ve tried many of these apps before. But lately, I’ve been using them more because I recently had terrible anxiety. I’m feeling much better now, and I don’t know if it’s because of the apps or just enough time has passed, or maybe both.

A primary concern about these self-care/wellness apps is privacy issues. So whenever I use these apps, I don’t put any personal and sensitive details. I write about my mood or anxiety and write vague descriptions that are not too personal and that I would feel comfortable telling other people.

Another thing to note is that I’m basing these reviews/recommendations on the free versions. I know not everyone can afford to pay for apps (same here), and I get frustrated when I see reviews of apps on the paid versions only. I usually don’t know what I can or can’t access before downloading an app. And when I would download it, I would be disappointed by the lack of features on the paid versions. This post will only talk about my experience with the free versions.

If you’re going through anxiety, stress or want to practice self-care, these are the free apps that I recommend.

Journaling  |  Stoic App

Ever since I was young, I’ve always had a journal (or diary). I didn’t know it then, but journaling helped me process my emotions and vent all my thoughts and feelings. I still have those journals, and it’s fun to read through them.

I’ve tried digital journaling and have downloaded many journaling apps, but it wasn’t the same as writing in a notebook. But for some reason, there was something about the Stoic app that got me to actually journal digitally.

The app has such a beautiful, minimalistic UI app design; I’m a sucker for a good design. It’s also more than just a journaling app. You can view quotes and affirmations, do breathing exercises and meditate. There are also a bunch of guided journal topics, from stress and anxiety to self-discovery. You’ll have to pay for the premium version if you want access to the entire catalogue.

How I Use the App

You can customize a plan for your day. I do a Morning Preparation and Evening Reflection every day. The app guides you through each with a mood check-in, your focus of the day and journal prompts based on your answers. For example, if you say you want to focus on self-care today, the app will ask questions about self-care. You can also choose the questions the app will ask you each day.

I also do a mid-day mood check-in. Sometimes I’ll log my mood, and that’s it. But if I’m feeling overwhelmed, anxious or any other negative emotion, I’ll log my mood and do all the journal prompts to help me feel better or work through some feelings. I’ll also do a breathing exercise if I feel like I need it.

I’m currently using the free version, and honestly, I think it’s good enough. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything, and I have found it really helpful. But for a free app, it does what it’s supposed to do and is functional. Of course, if you want the whole experience of the app, you can purchase the premium version.

Meditation  |  Insight Timer App

I’ve tried A LOT of meditation apps, from Calm to Headspace and everything in between, and their free versions are so limited that you don’t get the full benefits of what they claim to offer. It can be very frustrating scrolling through these apps and seeing a lock on almost every exercise. The free versions are still usable, but you won’t get as much out of them as you would the paid versions.

This is where Insight Timer comes in.

It is by far one of the best, if not THE BEST, free meditation apps out there. Honestly, there’s so much free content that I can’t even give you a full review of their offerings because I haven’t even explored them. You can also journal and track your mood.

They have a paid version that gives you access to their well-being courses. If you can afford it and have some extra cash to spare, I recommend getting their Member Plus to support them.

How I Use the App

I’ve mainly been using Insight Timer as a sleep aid. I put on their Sleep Meditations, Bedtime Tales or Soundscapes while trying to fall asleep. Which one I put on depends on my mood — if I’m feeling anxious or stressed, I’ll do meditation. If I want something calming in the background, I’ll put on the soundscapes.

There are also many options to choose from, and the exercises can vary from 10 minutes to over an hour. Honestly, it’s become a habit now to put on Insight Timer before bed. I don’t know if it’s improved my sleep, but it has definitely helped calm me down if I’m anxious.

Mood Tracker  |  Daylio App

There are a lot of mood tracker apps out there, and I’ve tried a few of them, but I find Daylio the one I like the most. This app is pretty straightforward — it tracks your mood. You can track your mood as little or as much as you want throughout the day. You can choose all the activities you’ve been doing to give an insight into why you might feel a certain way. There’s also an option to elaborate more on your mood if you want to add some context.

I’m using the free version, and it’s enough for me. You can buy the premium version and unlock more features like advanced stats, customization and more. There’s also an option for goal setting, but I haven’t used that feature yet.

How I Use the App

I’ve been using Daylio for over a year, but I’ve only been taking it seriously since the start of 2023. I used to only track my mood in the morning, and that’s it. But I wanted to change it this year and use the app seriously. Right now, I track my mood throughout the day and take notes on why I think I feel that way. I think it helps to understand why I’m feeling a certain way at the moment.

Support  |  Wysa App

Wysa is an interesting app because it’s basically like chatting with a therapist… for free. The app has an emotionally intelligent chatbot that uses AI to speak to you about your feelings, anxieties, etc. It uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) and meditation. Depending on your mood or what you want to focus on at the moment, it will suggest some breathing or meditation exercises, thought exercises, gratitude exercises and more. 

I’m using the free version, and it is a bit limited in terms of the exercises. Also, there’s an option to book a session with an actual therapist, but of course, it’s a paid option. 

How I Use the App

I mainly use the chat feature, which I guess is the main feature. I find that it does help with reframing thoughts from negative to positive. It also has my favourite breathing exercises from any app I’ve used. 

Out of all of the apps on this list, Wysa is probably the most limiting and my least used app. I find the conversations a bit redundant and you can tell you’re chatting with an AI because it’ll pick up on certain words and think you want to end the conversation when you don’t. But overall, I find that it has been helpful in some instances and I would still recommend it.

Fun and Interactive  |  Finch App

If you want to practice self-care but find that all the other apps are boring or feel too serious or like a chore, then the Finch app is perfect for you! Basically, the app gives you a virtual pet to take care of, and the way only to do it is by completing self-care tasks such as meditating, light workouts, journaling, breathing exercises or completing goals. 

When you open the app throughout the day, it’ll ask you to note your mood or motivations so you can see how your mood has changed that day. You can also buy clothes and furniture for your pet using the in-game currency.

How I Use the App

I’ve only been using the Finch app for like two weeks, and so far, I’m loving it. It’s such a cute and fun way to practice self-care if you find the other apps too dull. I’ve also used the prompts to reflect on my mood, day and other thoughts.

I find the free version is pretty good and not limiting at all. I can get the most out of what is available to me. The premium version will unlock even more exercises and customizations. But overall, I think it’s a great all-in-one app for journaling, mood tracking and meditation/breathing exercises with a fun twist.

Those are all the apps that I use for self-care. I’ve tried many other apps, and I find these have the best free versions if you are unable to purchase the paid ones.

Do you use any self-care apps? If so, which ones are your favourites?

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