We’ve often heard the negative ways that technology can affect our mental health. For example, studies have shown that spending too much time on Facebook and comparing your life (and body) to those of others can cause or exacerbate depression– and most of us are constantly aware how much faster (and more stressful) life has gotten with the advent of the smartphone.
However, in my experience, the internet is full of wonderful, easy-to-use tools for you to straighten out your brain. Here are some resources that I’ve found that can make technology work for you and your mental health.
- Social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr all have amazing recovery communities full of wisdom and insight. You can start with one page or blog and, by tracing what they share, find tons of other pages/blogs to follow. Two Facebook pages that I follow are EMPOWERed: A Healing Collective and Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training. If you’re on Tumblr, you can check out my archived blog depressionresource.
- You Feel Like Shit. You Feel Like Shit is my contribution to internet mental health– it’s a game-like self care guide that you can play through if you’re feeling bad. It asks questions and then gives recommendations based on your answers, including suggestions like playing with pets and drinking a glass of water.
- Online counseling services. Therapy can be really inaccessible for a variety of reasons. Instead of traveling to a therapist near you, you can find counseling services on the web that work just like regular therapy. Check out this list from E-counseling.com to figure out which service is best for you.
- Psychoeducation. Just learning about your symptoms can be a huge breakthrough and there’s tons of information about every disorder on the internet. If you have a diagnosis, start by learning the basics and then look up your symptoms for more specific information. An app that you can use for anxiety psychoeducation is SAMapp. Its features allow you to read about anxiety and then collect coping strategies that work for you.
- To-do apps. If you struggle with stress caused by disorganization, to-do apps can change your life. I am personally a proponent of the Bullet Journal, but I recognize that it does have its flaws. (In particular, a paper journal cannot provide reminder alarms.) One that I recommend is ToDoist.
- Online DBT courses. Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which was designed for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, is a selection of skills usually taught in a classroom-like setting. However, not everyone has the time for three-hour classes twice a week, even if they could really benefit from the material. Instead, try DBT Peer Connections, a YouTube channel made by a peer who wanted to bring DBT to the masses.
- Guided meditation audio. Meditation, and the mindfulness that results, is a super important aspect of self care. With its budding popularity, there are tons of guided meditations out there for every use under the sun. You can find free meditation audio on YouTube, but if you’re into apps, Calm might be a great choice for you.
- Crisis text line at 741 741. In a crisis, you may not be thinking clearly enough to use the skills and processes that you’ve been working on. That’s when the Crisis Text Line can step in– they will help guide you through your crisis and work on practical steps you can take to mitigate harm. All you have to do is send a text to 741 741. Another app you can use in a crisis is What’s Up. It includes grounding exercises, coping strategies, helpful information, a journal, and habit trackers (both positive and negative).
- Communication apps. Regularly keep in touch with friends and loved ones who can help when you’re feeling down. You can use text messenger services (like Facebook Messenger) or video chat (like Skype)– either way, having a strong support system can make a difference in your mental health.
- Woebot. Woebot is a robot that will help you with your woes. Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, Woebot will respond intelligently to your messages and help you work on your mental health a day at a time. Woebot has Android and iOS apps, but you can also message it with Facebook Messenger.
- Food trackers. Here we have to tread carefully: apps that help you lose weight are not going to do anything for your mental health and may, in fact, harm it. However, apps that help you get enough nutrition to keep your body running at its best will help you a lot, especially if you have a history of disordered eating. Some will even help you deal with urges to engage in disordered eating behavior. Some examples include RR Eating Disorder Management and Rise Up: Eating Disorder Help.
- Mood trackers. Mood trackers can be particularly helpful when you’re gathering evidence so you can be diagnosed by a professional. Instead of guessing how many days a month you feel depressed, for example, you can have hard evidence. One mood tracker option is Daylio, which tracks a ton of data for you to use in your recovery.
- Journal apps. Some of us, for better or worse, are glued to our phones. If a paper journal isn’t for you, you can always download a good journal app to talk out your feelings and record your insights. Paper journaling has been shown to increase mindfulness, but apps are more portable, giving you the opportunity to write at any time. If you’d like to keep a digital journal, try something designed for long-form writing like the Journey app.
- Mental health games. Many app creators have taken the concept of gamification and applied it to mental health. Apps like SuperBetter or Habitica take your day-to-day activities and turn them into a game complete with achievements and rewards. If you’re a video game junkie, you can redirect your urge to win into meeting real-life goals.