Apps to Be Your Best Self
Tech can play a role in maintaining your wellness goals, and nudge you if you’re veering offtrack. Photo: Westend61/Getty Images
Now that we’re well into February, how are those New Year’s resolutions holding up?
Despite good intentions, it’s estimated only eight per cent of people achieve annual goals, according to a 2021 study by the University of Scranton.
But don’t beat yourself up: sticking to resolutions are tough enough any year, but we’re still not out of a grip of a global pandemic, and so it’s even more difficult to change something about ourselves when everyday life is anything but ordinary.
Thankfully, tech can play a role to help you set and maintain your target, and nudge you if you’re veering offtrack.
Apps, in particular, are a great tool, since you likely have your phone with you all the time, and content often synchronizes with other gear you may have (like a computer, tablet or smartwatch), so all your progress is kept up to date across devices.
The following are a few app-ealing examples to help you stay motivated with your self-improvement goals throughout the year. All apps are available for iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android phones and tablets.
In a previous article, we’ve looked at helpful apps to help you stay on budget, manage your money and set financial goals for yourself.
From the same company as TurboTax and QuickBooks, Intuit’s Mint.com app (and website) remains a favourite as it does all the heavy lifting by organizing and categorizing your spending — with support from most major Canadian banks and accounts — and lets you see what’s coming in and going out, in real-time, with colour-coded lists, charts and graphs. Along with following bank accounts and credit card balances, keep an eye on investments (including RRSP contributions and balances) and even break out your expenditures by category.
As an opt-in feature, receive alerts when it’s time to pay a bill or if you’ve exceeded your budget. See your credit score, export spreadsheets, read weekly summary emails and glance at info on your smartwatch.
Mint.com is free to use but in-app purchase removes ads and unlocks some additional features.
Photo: Intuit Inc.
While not as widely supported in Canada, another option is Simplifi by Quicken, which also lets you manage your finances and track your spending (including bill payments) all in one place, set goals and grow your savings. You can receive customized alerts to always know where you stand with what’s coming in and out of your household.
Simplifi is free to start but requires a subscription after a month of use (with pricing options outlined on the website).
Finally, when you talk money management in today’s day and age, it’s important to minimize your risk against cybercriminals looking to defraud you.
Platforms like Norton 360 Premium from Norton LifeLock (about $50/year) protect you from scams and hacks, viruses and other malware (“malicious software”) like ransomware, whether you’re on iOS, Android, Windows or Mac (or all of them).
Features include threat detection, firewalls, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for remaining anonymous while online, webcam intrusion detection, a password manager and more.
WW (formerly Weight Watchers) may have been around for more than 60 years, but the company continues to tweak its platform to yield better results.
Case in point: the new PersonalPoints program is unique to you and your tastes (or dietary restrictions), such as a custom ZeroPoint food list, based on what you like to eat (for one person it could be brown rice, while for another it may be avocado, and so on). While calories continue to be an important factor in the point value of a food, other factors are now considered, such as fiber, protein and unsaturated fats (all good), as well as added sugars and saturated fats (not so good).
From $15/month, WW also includes a strong activity component (now with exercises led by video instructors) as well as sleep tracking and more.
Lose It! is another popular solution, as it lets you set a goal, such as losing 20 pounds over three months, and will tell you what your daily caloric intake should look like.
Then, log the food you eat throughout the day — either by scanning barcodes or snapping photos of packaged foods, or manually inputting what you ate (such as “large banana” or “whole wheat bagel with cream cheese”) — and it will chip away at your daily allowance. As you might expect, exercising frees up more calories you can consume daily.
The app also features weight-loss tips, synchronization with fitness apps and devices, meal planning and recipes, and lets you track proteins, carbs, sugar, water intake, body measurements, sleep cycles and more.
Other popular weight-loss solutions include Noom, MyFitnessPal, and able.
As for workout classes at home, Apple Fitness+ ($10 per month or $79 a year) is a new video workout service that incorporates the activity metrics captured by Apple Watch (required), for you to visualize on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. You can access studio-style workouts delivered by inspiring world-class trainers and with motivating music from popular artists. When a workout is selected and started on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, the correct workout type will automatically start on Apple Watch.
Speaking of physical health, there are also popular apps to help quit smoking, curb drinking or curb cannabis consumption and more.
Mindfulness and Meditation
The pandemic hasn’t just affected many Canadians physically — with gyms closing-and-opening-and-closing, and an overall more sedentary lifestyle because of lockdowns — but COVID-19 has also impacted many emotionally, too, as you might expect.
While nothing replaces mental health services, like therapy, apps are a convenient and helpful way to get little moments of Zen throughout the day.
One of the biggest, Calm is packed with several hundred audio sessions. For whenever you have three to 25 minutes to spare, and you can choose what you want to work on, such as “Calming Anxiety,” “Deep Sleep,” “Managing Stress” and so on. Tap to launch a session, close your eyes and listen to these soft-spoken instructors guide you through mindfulness and meditation exercises. There are also seven- and 21-day programs, too.
Pro Tip: If you have a smart speaker, such as a Google Nest or Amazon Echo, you can wake up your personal assistant and simply say “Open Calm” to start a session on-demand!
While there are free sessions to get you started, subscriptions start at $77/year.
Other great apps for your mental well-being include Headspace, Sleep Cycle, Ten Percent Happier, and Simple Habit.
Formerly Relax Melodies, Montreal’s BetterSleep helps you fall asleep by letting you choose from a myriad of soothing nature sounds — like rain on a tin roof, a crackling fire, whooshing waves or wildlife in a forest — and the option to create your own “soundscape,” too.
The app also includes white noise options, guided meditative sessions, narrated bedtime stories and more.
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