In today's always-on, hyper-connected world, relaxation can be elusive. There is always more to do; more decisions to make; and the dreaded feeling that no matter how much you're doing — it's not enough. Fortunately, one thing technology has brought us is apps that will help you relax because, many people have pretty much forgotten how to unplug, reboot, and just chill out. Psych Central reported that, according to psychotherapist Ali Miller, MFT, our world is “fast-paced, competitive and doesn’t value rest or relaxation as much as productivity, and consumption. Of course, it’s hard to relax.”
Sometimes I will get to the end of a day and think that I haven't accomplished anything, which is hardly ever true. I've usually accomplished a lot, but I always feel like I should be doing more, and it's difficult to allow myself a few hours to recharge doing something I enjoy instead of doing something I feel like I have to in order to keep succeeding.
But, sometimes true success is taking time for self care. Repeat after me: "Self care is not a four-letter word." Americans are so bad at self care that 2014 study reported by Live Science found that people in wealthy countries like the United States have a harder time relaxing than people in less affluent countries.
"Life [in an affluent country] is more fast-paced, and there are just so many things that you have to do," study author Louis Tay, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University said in Live Science. "You have higher expectations, and more choices available to you, as compared to someone who might be in a poorer country, experiencing a slower pace of life, and less demands."
1. Relax VR
Relax VR, a virtual reality mobile app to help reduce people's stress and anxiety, uses 360° nature videos, guided meditations, and music inside a VR headset. If your idea of relaxing is getting away to a dream location, but you can't afford the ticket, Relax VR offers guided meditations in destinations like the beaches of Portugal, or the Great Ocean Road in southeast Australia, where you can experience the beautiful natural environments of the world's most serene locations without ever leaving home.
"Relax VR is aimed at improving the emotional health and wellbeing of people around the world, particularly those living in cities," the Relax VR website noted. You can use Relax VR with Google Cardboard, which is a VR viewer you can get on the cheap. I tried it out the other day, and it's pretty boss.
Relaxing can be hard for urban dwellers who are always on the go, and literally never have a moment of peace and quiet. Sway, an interactive meditation experience, uses your phone to track your movements and provide feedback to help you gain focus, and improve your attention.
"With six unique levels, you will learn new techniques to be mindful in everyday life situations and subtly practice mindfulness anytime and anywhere," according to Sway's description on the App Store. "From simply moving your phone in your hand while sitting down or lying in bed, to gently swaying your body while waiting for the bus or even walking slowly around the office — Sway is designed to help you find focus in everyday life."
Sway teaches you mindful touch, mindful walking, and even mindful swaying so you can be the most relaxed person on the subway, airplane, or even in the back of a cab.
If your idea of relaxing is stimulating your brain with a game, Sidewords is going to be your new go-to relaxation app. Released July 18, Sidewords is part logic game, and part word puzzle.
"The process of making Sidewords began with a simple but brand new idea for a word game. We view the game like a modern newspaper word puzzle game; the kind of puzzle you do with your morning coffee every day," the Sidewords press release explained. "We consciously designed the game not to have timers and penalties, because we want players to enjoy the process of exploring the puzzles in their own time. Solving the puzzles becomes a personal and meditative process."
So, it's kind of like relaxing with the New York Times crossword puzzle — if you find that kind of thing relaxing.
HelloMind is a meditation and results-driven hypnosis app that can help users cope with everything from low self-esteem, stress, fear, bad sleep, and unhealthy habits. The app aims to help you break negative patterns that are holding your back from living your fullest life.
"The core of the RDH theory is that if you are able to consciously define a problem, your subconscious can find the solution," the HelloMind website explained. "When you open the HelloMind app and answer the simple questions that lead you to a treatment, you’re defining the problem in a conscious and analytical process at the same time. The treatment has already begun when you decide which problem to work on."
You can use the free version, or purchase in-app "Boosters." Sessions last between 10 and 30 minutes, and for the most success it's recommended you complete a 30-day program on the app.
5. Yoga Wake Up
So, you already know that yoga is relaxing, but are you making the time to do it? The app Yoga Wake Up can help make sure you practice yoga every day. "Wake up to the sounds of yoga and meditation," the Yoga Wake Up app website noted. "The Yoga Wake Up app for iPhone delivers yoga audio sequences you can do from bed for an easier transition from dreamland."
Um, you had me at "sequences you can do from bed." And, because the app wakes you up gently, you're probably going to have a better day than you would being roused awake by a raucous alarm.
How often do you finding yourself holding your breath throughout the day? Personally, I unintentionally hold my breath a lot. The Breathe app basically reminds you to breathe.
This mindfulness app allows you to set up notifications to receive reminders throughout the day to take deep breaths. You can also sign up to receive meditations quotes.
7. Stop, Breathe & Think
If you're super stressed, your emotions can get pretty out of control. Stop, Breathe & Think helps you take a beat and regulate your emotions by taking a time out for a guided meditation.
The app asks you to stop what you are doing and pause to check in with how you are thinking and feeling. Next, you practice breathing to create space between your thoughts, emotions, and reactions. You can try Stop, Breathe & Think for free, and there's even a version for kids.
8. Adult Coloring Book
If none of these other apps appeal to you, coloring is the new meditation so you'll want to check out this Adult Coloring Book app to tap into your inner artist, and color your way to relaxation.
"Turn on the mesmerizing ambience and engage yourself in hours of peaceful color therapy with hundreds of designs to color, including mandalas, flora, fauna, geometric, and many more types of artwork," the Adult Coloring Book descriptions explained on the App Store. "Just select your color and tap to paint."
Pacifica uses science-backed cognitive behavioral therapy to help you relax and reduce your stress level. "We believe in daily tools aimed at breaking the cycle of negative thoughts and emotions stress, anxiety and depression can cause," The Pacifica website explained. "We’re not about quick-fixes or false promises. We are about real progress, a day at a time."
The app can help you manage stress, depression, and anxiety. Options include daily mood tracking, guided meditations, peer support groups, and more. Pacifica also let's you set goals and track your progress so the productive part of you that can't relax gets tricked into doing something that is good for the other part of you that desperately needs to recharge.