Wellness

Use these brain training apps, fire your shrink.

03.23.15
Melon Headband

Between stress-inducing job, family stuff and typical sundry anxieties, it’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of worry. But a nudge in the right direction can do wonders— and you can skip the trip to your shrink thanks to brain training apps that help you boost memory and mood.

Ever have a day when practically anything can set you off? The sound of your partner’s lips smacking when he chews… the yogurt container that explodes when you open it… the lady who cuts in front of you at the supermarket and then pretends to be distracted by Us magazine? From time to time, we can all use a little help sorting out the noise in our minds. And while nothing can replace a session with a good counselor, there are some new wellness apps that can help with anxiety, anger, frustration and more. The best part: they’re available anytime and anywhere you need them, with no appointments or leather couches necessary.

Melon Melon

No longer must the word “headband” call to mind 1980s Olivia Newton John: the Melon headband is pure future chic. The device-and-app combo monitors your brain waves and what you’re doing (i.e. your location, what you’re eating, who you’re with) to track what’s affecting your state of mind. Then, it offers biofeedback games—such as folding origami with your mind—to train your brain to focus and relax. Though the Kickstarter-funded project isn’t available yet, you can preorder it for $149. If you can’t wait, you might consider competitor Muse, which is similar but currently more limited in terms of games, and twice the price.

Headspace App

Headspace

Meditation is a nice idea. The problem is that those of us who need it the most can rarely settle down long enough to do it. Headspace is a meditation app that can get you started in just ten minutes a day, and it’s ’s been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety and improve focus. As a busy mom and business owner who really doesn’t have an extra moment, I can vouch for its being doable.

Matter App

Matter

Though it’s primarily aimed at college students, all ages can join Matter, an anonymous social media app built for discussing matters that feel too personal to talk about otherwise. There’s no sign-up; you can simply post thoughts and feelings and get sensitive, constructive feedback from other users. Another way to feel better fast: help out another user by responding to their concerns.

stop breathe and think

Stop, Breathe & Think

Feeling on edge, with no time to stop what you’re doing? Stop, Breathe & Think offers five-minute meditative exercises specifically made to teach kindness and compassion. It was developed for use with school kids, so it has a friendly, easy-to-use style. The three-step concept: stop what you’re doing, practice mindful breathing and try one of the meditations. Even when the thought of pausing to meditate makes my head spin, I can manage five minutes (and five minutes of calm really are always worth it).

  Unstuck

Unstuck

This app comes from a consulting company that’s worked with big businesses. The basic idea is it’s a life coach in your pocket. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and can’t see beyond the moment, or have a big decision to make and are feeling immobilized, Unstuck acts kind of like those email personality tests that tell you your type (like “you’re a Lone Leader”), then suggest coping mechanisms that work for that type. Though it can feel too simple if you’re really stuck, it can be fun for life’s smaller-scale frustrations.

Elevate Elevate

If playing games on your device settles your nerves, here’s a way to make that gaming time do more. Elevate is a personal brain trainer filled with games to help you improve your memory and focus. Rather than finishing each game with that “uh-oh, how much time did I just eat up?” feeling, this can leave you knowing you’ve been productive—some users say it’s like a vitamin for your brain.

None of these will solve everything, but they could be just the thing to save your peace of mind for a few moments—and in a world of electronic things begging for my attention, I think that’s worth a lot. So here’s something electronic to help calm the humans. Hey, don’t they owe us that much?

What helps you calm down when you’re stressed to the brink? Tell me in the comments!

Author: Carley Knobloch

Carley Knobloch is a digital lifestyle expert and a regular contributor on the Today Show and CNN. She’s also a home automation expert and host for HGTV, where makes home technology easy, approachable and fun. Carley has been featured in Real Simple, Allure, and Bloomberg Businessweek. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband, two kids, springer spaniel, and myriad smartphones.

5 comments on “Use these brain training apps, fire your shrink.”

  1. Carley
    I love your blog and all the cool things you find. I have been a fan pre-today show 😉
    I was wondering if you ever have look at the android app world and find cool apps that you recommend or know of any fun blogs that do? I would love a password app.

    Thanks so much

    1. Hi Jenifer! Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m thrilled that you’re a long-time reader/watcher!

      I really do try to make sure that most of what I review is available on multiple platforms, but sometimes the innovation is decidedly in the Apple camp. That said, my favorite password manager, 1Password, is available for Android, and I strongly recommend it. Try it and let me know what you think!

  2. Carly, I have a 90 year old cousin with mid-stage Alzheimer. I brought her a picture of her and another person and she stroked the picture of herself and said “”me” over and over with a big smile on her face. It was a picture taken 65 years ago. But she also recognized the other person and repeated her name several times. Then she saw a picture of my father taken years ago, said “Love”, stroking the picture and then pointing at me said “Love you.” My Dad and I were very close. I’ve been searching for the following kind of apps: picture/colors memory game starting with maybe 6, then 12 etc “cards.” An App with simple words such as: thirsty, hungry, cold, happy, tired. etc. that she could point to now and maybe as the stages of Alzheimer worsen, she could point to food, glass, emoticons. I’ve heard of an app that children use that rewards with bubbles that they then pop. Would like an app with simple songs that un-tie an Alzheimer’s tongue: la, la, la, me, me, me, etc. She sings every word of “Happy Birthday, and some words of “You Are My Sunshine.” She used to sing with the “Sweet Adelines” in New York. I plan to buy a tablet for her September birthday and would like to download apps that will help her. I can see how much she wants to speak, how frustrated she gets, and how aware she is of surroundings and people.
    Do you have any suggestions for apps?

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