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I chose to write this article on the best mental health apps for 2023 because I refuse to not be happy this year. I refuse to let senseless worries eat me alive anymore. I refuse to be complacent with my fluctuating weight this year.
I think you will agree that we all get a bit overwhelmed sometimes… and the last two years haven’t been the kindest to anyone.
I had my first anxiety attack a few months ago. I’m not sure what brought it on. I guess it was a bit of everything finally boiling over.
I’ve spent the majority of my life playing the strong character in my story. The brave older sister who would shield my brother from our mom’s mental breakdowns as kids. The 20-something who stood up for my brother when he came out of the closet and fell victim to hatred and bullying from seriously misguided people. The 30-year-old divorcee who started a new life on her own, without speaking ill of my ex.
The 45-year-old mom of four kids, ages 6-11, living through a pandemic.
Like many people, I am not sure I took it seriously enough in the beginning. I mean, I always followed the rules. I wore a mask in public and washed my hands, kept my distance… but I guess I never thought it would get as scary as it really was. That’s what I didn’t see coming.
Desperately trying to get our elderly parents vaccinated, hospitals being over-run, toilet paper and food shortages, schools closing and people dying.
The kids being home from school was rough on all of us. Not seeing our friends and family was awful. It was all too much and, for once, I didn’t want to be strong. I was mentally and physically exhausted and making myself sick, without even realizing it.
I didn’t want to talk to my husband or kids because I didn’t want to let them know I was scared or feeling a bit hopeless. What kind of message would that convey to them? Their rock admitting she needed help or someone to talk to… wouldn’t that scare them?
Like a slow leak, my anxiety was taking over my sleep and my body. I ached all over and gained some weight, despite still jogging daily and golfing regularly.
I looked into therapy and it was like trying to locate the Holy Grail. They didn’t return phone calls or, if one did, they had no openings for months.
And that is when I started looking into mental health apps.
I’d heard people talking about them. I even did a review on Talkspace last year… and was tempted to join, but I wasn’t ready.
You need to be ready. If you want to be happy and less anxious, you need to be ready to commit to making it happen.
The 7 mental health apps I have selected for you offer a low-pressure, judgment-free and inexpensive alternative to traditional in-person therapy. I tried to address a variety of different audiences and needs with each one. That being said, these apps are not designed to manage mental disorders requiring medication, hospitalization, severe depression or suicidal thoughts. Please consult your physician or call 9-1-1 if you are in the midst of a serious mental crisis.
Talkspace is a 100% online-driven platform and app where people can text, video and audio message with a licensed therapist… 5 days a week, 24 hours per day. All sessions are done completely online or via your smartphone whenever it is convenient for you.
All of the Talkspace therapists go through a rigorous vetting and credentialing process and are licensed to practice in certain states, so you’ll be matched with one in your time zone.
You are given three therapists to choose from based on your personalized assessment. By simply clicking on their profile, you are able to read through their bios and pick the one you’d feel most compatible with.
I highly suggest downloading the app to your smartphone or tablet for a better real-time experience. This way, your therapist will be able to go back and forth with you during their “office hours”, much like texting with a friend. The typical response time is generally 4-6 hours during the morning and afternoon time. Late night messages (4pm EST – 7am EST) are usually answered by 10am EST the next morning.
Again, there are no free trials with Talkspace, for the same reason you can’t get a free trial with a licensed in-person therapist… they are being paid for their time.
Talkspace offers 3 plans:
All plans include interaction with your therapist 5 days/week.
The Talkspace app is available via Google Play or the App Store for iPhones and iPad.
MoodMission is an app designed to help users deal with stress, depression and anxiety. There is no interaction with a licensed therapist or medical professional, but there are a series of mental health exercises designed to help you feel better when you’re feeling down.
When you first start using the app, it will ask you to take a few quick surveys about how you’re feeling… and then give you a customized list of 5 “Missions” to improve your overall wellbeing and lift your spirits.
These Missions are scientifically-backed mental health strategies and exercises that are quick and easy to complete, and proven to be effective in elevating your mood quickly. Missions include:
Completing Missions earns you rewards in the app to keep you motivated and a Mission log helps you track your progress over time. So eventually, the app’s algorithm detects which types of Missions work best for you… meaning the more you use MoodMission, the better experience you’ll have.
The MoodMission app is available via Google Play for Android or in the App Store.
Moodfit believes that mental and physical well being go hand in hand. Scientists and doctors have been saying this for years… if you feel good physically, you’ll feel better about yourself mentally. Endorphins baby! Conversely, if you’re in a good mental state of mind, you’ll be more inclined to get up and get going.
The importance of self-care is a driving force behind what makes this app tick… and a big part of why it’s been ranked among the most popular for the past two years. The creators don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all solution to mental health. That is why they encourage users to experiment with different tools and track their results… which is integral to understanding what works best for their specific situation and personality type.
Moodfit assists users with:
The custom tracking feature is perhaps the coolest feature about this app, given there are other apps offering a handful of the same features. Personally speaking, it would be great to have a tool to help me realize that everytime I see a certain friend or family member, I become agitated or depressed. We can’t always see what’s right in front of us without a little help. Moodfit can offer that help.
Moodfit is available for free download via Google Play and the App Store. The free version of the app offers most of the key features, however unlimited access to all areas requires Premium Membership.
Sanvello is not your average mental health app. It’s more like an anti-anxiety kit that goes wherever you go… for whenever you need it.
The Sanvello app offers many of the self-care features it’s competitor apps do, such as:
But what is unique about Sanvello are the additional features, such as:
Peer support is a forum where you can go to talk with other users in a non-judgemental way… to help each other relate and realize you are not alone. You can search from a wide array of topics and view posts from your Sanvello community, designed to motivate and inspire you.
Coaching is available for an additional subscription upgrade. This is your chance to have 1-on-1 conversations via text or video chat with an empathetic coach who holds a background in mental wellness and over 200 hours of training in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). No bots! The coaches are well versed in all things Sanvello, so will make personal recommendations as to what areas you should be focusing on, as your needs or emotions change.
The therapist feature is available as an add-on to the coaching plan. You pay an initial consultation fee, then a discounted follow up fee for each session after. To get started:
Every session is done online and at your convenience. Afterwards, your therapist will make recommendations for tools within the app to help you on your healing journey… as well as work in conjunction with your personal coach. They will also refer you to an in-person therapist, should you feel tele-therapy isn’t best for you.
Sanvello prides itself on its affiliation with many major insurance plans, so that all or part of your costs will be covered.
Sanvello can be downloaded at the Google Play or App Store.
Happify's science-based activities and games were designed by experts in the fields of psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience to help users overcome negative thoughts, stress and unexpected challenges in life. Life coaches and renowned self-help authors are also part of the brainpower behind Happify.
Available online or via the app, Happify’s techniques were developed by these experts who've studied evidence-based interventions in the fields of positive psychology, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy for decades.
Happify’s focuses on four main areas:
Then it simply provides you with the tools you need to succeed in those areas and improve your state of mind.
Start by answering a few questions (I think there were about 8) and then provide an email address to get started. Once you sign in, you’ll be asked if you want your profile private or public. A public profile allows you to receive encouragement and feedback from other Happify users, and vice versa. I chose private, but can always change it.
After that, you’re given a recommended “track” to follow based on your answers you gave earlier.
It asks you to spend just a few minutes each day doing fun activities that will improve your well-being skills. Happify believes 6 basic skills separate happy people from the not-so-happy people:
In time, doing these things will help you reduce stress, boost your self-esteem, eliminate dead-end and negative thoughts, improve your relationships and make better lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, better sleep).
Most people using the app reported feeling roughly 85% better after just 2 months, using the program 3-4 times per week.
There are upwards of 65 tracks to choose from on your journey with Happify, many included with the free membership. The ones that are locked are for Happify Plus users only.
Happify Plus offers:
Another really unique thing about this program is Happify Daily… where you’ll have access to articles, videos and infographics to help you live your happiest life. This is available on the free version as well.
Happify can be downloaded at the Google Play or App Store.
Shine was created by two women, one Black and one half-Japanese. They wanted to create a non-judgmental platform where people from all ethnicities, genders, religions and cultural backgrounds easily access tools to inspire and support them on their personal wellness journey.
Shine’s team is 80% BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color). The company prides itself on the diverse range of experiences, identities and skills each staffer brings to the table. It also makes Shine the perfect app for people who feel discriminated against .
The basic version of Shine is free. It includes a daily meditation, daily article and a gratitude log. It’s simplistic, but convenient.
Shine Premium offers basic features and more, including:
Shine is available via the Google Play and App Store.
Calm was originally designed as an app to improve sleep through relaxation and meditation techniques. It has since branched out to help users with their overall mental health and happiness.
When you first go to the website, it asks “What can we help you with today?”. Click on one or all of the items you’d like to work on and you’re brought to another screen where you’re congratulated for taking the first step towards a mentally stronger you. You’re then asked to answer a few more questions to personalize your experience.
Once the survey is complete , you’ll need to enter an email or login with Facebook or Google to get your customized plan.
Calm is still mediation-driven, but instead of just helping you sleep better at night… it promises to decrease stress and increase happiness during the day. In fact, 84% of Calm users who used the app 5 times per week, say they experienced an improvement in their mental health.
The basic membership includes a smaller selection of guided meditations and sleep stories, but premium offers:
Calm is available via Google Play or the App Store.
Final Thoughts on Mental Health Apps
In a world where things are constantly changing and many of us can rarely find the time to stand still, let alone practice self-care, having easy access to tools that can help us re-center our focus and find peace can be a game changer.
Think of your mental and physical well-being as yin and yang. They are interconnected. Case in point, my doctors couldn’t find anything physically wrong with me after my anxiety attack. I saw a cardiologist, neurologist, ENT and gastroenterologist for symptoms that seemed to appear out of nowhere for the first time in my life. I was suffering from shortness of breath, tinnitus, burning in my chest, insomnia, palpitations and “white coat syndrome”. My joints ached.
But now that I’ve gotten a clear bill of health “on paper”… I’ve realized it is up to me to take back control of my mental well-being, which will inevitably improve the way I feel physically. Stress really can kill you, not to mention turn your hair gray.
You need to find the mental health app that works for you. Try a few or try them all… most offer basic versions to give you a taste. But in all honesty, if you find the one that suits you, it’s almost always worth springing for the upgrades. In the long run, it’s just a drop in the bucket and money well spent… on you and your brighter future.
Finally, if you want to increase your happiness and life satisfaction, then watch this free video that details the 7-minute habit for planning your day to focus on what's important.