Most of us know the feeling of Blue Monday all too well (and we're not talking about the New Order song, here). It's a cold, miserable kind of month right after the festive season, and low mood is at an all-time high.
If you're feeling the January blues set in and are struggling to find motivation and a reason to be cheerful, then there are some great ways you can put your phone to good use by installing a few carefully chosen mental health apps.
While mental health apps aren't designed to replace proper medical mental health care and therapy, they can be a starting point to help identify how you're feeling and begin to move towards an improved headspace. There are all kinds of apps out there with different offers on the table – from helping you to journal your anxious thoughts to one-on-one therapy with a qualified professional.
We've pulled together a list of popular mental health apps that come highly recommended, to help you beat Blue Monday. These apps aren't an instant fix or a replacement for professional help, but they're a simple and straightforward way to help you work on yourself when your mood darkens.
So, let's take a look.
A platform that covers a whole range of mental health areas, Thrive has been developed to help with overall mental well-being – such as anxiety, stress, and low mood.
It works by helping you to track your mood, and offers insights and educational tips on coping mechanisms so that you're better equipped to deal with stress, low mood and down days as and when they happen.
The platform has been developed by UK-based specialists with years of clinical experience, and each coping technique in the app uses proven techniques that are simple to learn to help you get back on track.
As well as mood monitoring, it can teach you a range of relaxation techniques and uses a thought training programme that's based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) so it's more manageable dealing with negative thoughts.
In a similar vein to Thrive, Sanvello focuses on CBT and mindfulness to provide help in four ways: peer support, self-care, therapy and coaching.
Through its smart mood tracking tool, you can not only jot down, acknowledge and work through your concerns as and when they occur but track potential patterns over time to recognise triggers and make changes to prevent recurrences.
Users can also take advantage of a technique called Guided Journeys within the app, which takes a long-term approach to help you build life skills such as controlling your negative thoughts. In the moment, though, the app can also offer short-term solutions and coping strategies to help you either power through a bad patch or chill out – and these solutions are tailor-made for you, too.
3. Catch It
Despite the odd name (makes you think about catching a cold, right?), Catch It is a pretty handy app. The platform is designed to help you recognise minor symptoms of mental health concerns such as depression or anxiety, and not only provides educational titbits on a range of topics but tools to help you manage symptoms when you spot them.
The app has been designed as a joint project between the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester and aims to encourage users to take a new approach to their problems, flipping negative thoughts into positive ones using CBT and proven psychological methods.
However, it is not a diagnosis tool in and of itself, and if you feel like you're spiralling and overwhelmed by the potential symptoms you notice, it's important to speak to a professional.
If you've ever considered therapy, then BetterHelp can help. It's a personal, convenient way to speak to a licensed therapist from the comfort of your phone or laptop – and the therapists available are experts in a range of concerns that go beyond mental health issues to topics like couples therapy.
When you sign up, the app asks a number of questions in order to match you to an available therapist that's suited to your needs – all without the daunting task of meeting face-to-face. All of the therapists on BetterHelp are trained, qualified and experienced in their fields, and can be messaged at any time outside of your regular sessions.
It's a great platform to help you make positive, long-term changes as well as deal with short-term concerns. All at the click of a button.
5. MoodKit (iOS only)
Though MoodKit is only available on iOS, it had to be included in this list just because it's such a useful tool.
For a small fee, the app offers more than 200 CBT exercises to users that are designed specifically to help manage distorted thoughts, improve quality of life through positive actions, and guide self-awareness. It's a great tool to use alongside traditional therapy, but it's also useful alone to help identify patterns of negative thoughts, spot triggers and take charge of your own well-being.
As with some of the other apps on this list, MoodKit contains a Mood Tracker as well as a journal area that can be useful for reflecting on daily thoughts and worries. It's also fully secure using Touch or Face ID.
6. Chill Panda
Who knew that improving your mental health could be fun? Chill Panda takes a unique approach to make it so, through the use of breathing exercises, worry management techniques and more.
In the app, you play the role of Chill Panda – a cute little panda who's worried about going out into the big wide world. He goes to speak to a wide panda, and you can help him to explore the island while learning to manage your own feelings. The aim is to help you self-regulate so that you can identify the relationship between your mental, emotional and physical feelings and regain control.
While you do this, the app can also monitor your heart rate using your camera lens and make suggestions to help improve your current state of mind. Suitable for children and adults alike, it's by far the most innovative app to make it onto this list and wins points for its cute panda approach to well-being.
The word mindfulness gets thrown around a lot, but Happify roots the idea in positive psychological principles that really work.
A platform created to help you identify areas for growth in yourself, the app then uses a range of targeted activities and games to track your goals once you've identified them, with over 65 growth tracks to choose from.
The games take just a few minutes to play and have been developed to help with such concerns as low self-esteem, negative thinking, or even areas like finding career success. The free version of the app has plenty to get you started, and with the paid version you can turn idle moments into even more mental health productivity, for better well-being in as little as two months (according to the app's creators.)
As Google's Best App of the Year in 2021, Balance has a lot to offer – not to mention a free annual premium subscription for the first year on Android (at the time of writing.)
Developed as a meditation and sleep app to help manage stress and anxiety, the app creates a personalised meditation programme for users based on a series of daily questions. Thanks to an enormous audio library of files, Balance can create a programme that's specific to your needs each day – and the more you use it and the more questions you answer, the more personalised it becomes.
By teaching meditation basics in short plans, Balance works to help you become more away of your day-to-day activities, focus better, reduce anxiety, and get a great night's sleep – all through a few simple but proven techniques.