Articles tell us what to do, but apps help lead us and remind us to practice self-care every day. Below are apps we recommend, and many have been shown to be effective in evidence-based research. These high quality apps have been made available to UCSF, with some also free to the general public.
The Stress Free UC Study found that Headspace, used daily for just 10 minutes, reduced stress in a meaningful way and the benefits lasted for two months after stopping use. Headspace can be done in the morning or evening, alone or with family, or anytime you need to take a break.
Please consider trying one of these apps.
Meditation and relaxation
- Headspace: Two-week free trial for the general public.
- Health Minds Program App: Always free. Meditation and mindfulness skills.
- Calm: Seven-day free trial. A meditation, sleep, and relaxation app.
- Stop, Breathe & Think: Always free, and for kids too.
- Insight Timer: Always free. This is not a daily app, but rather a great library where you can search for various types of meditations and lengths by excellent teachers.
- 10% Happier: Free and paid options available. (Seven days free, then $99 per year.)
- UCLA Mindful App: Free. Meditation by Diana Winston.
- Mindfulness Coach: Mindfulness Coach 2.0 was developed to help veterans, service members, and others learn how to practice mindfulness. The app provides a gradual, self-guided training program designed to help you understand and adopt a simple mindfulness practice.
Coping with anxiety and depression
- Sanvello: A program for reducing stress and treating anxiety and depression that includes a coach or groups.
- Meru Health: A program for clinical anxiety or depression that uses an app and therapist, and biofeedback monitor is optional. Referral from a health care provider is necessary.
- Happify: Some free content, including stress reduction and cognitive techniques to address anxiety.
- MindShift CBT: Free content, including cognitive behavioral therapy strategies to address general worry, social anxiety, and panic.
- PTSD Coach: Created by VA’s National Center for PTSD and the Department of Defense’s National Center for Telehealth & Technology. This app provides you with education about post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), information about professional care, a self-assessment for PTSD, opportunities to find support, and tools that can help you manage the stresses of daily life with PTSD.
- PTSD Family Coach: In conjunction with PTSD Coach, the PTSD Family Coach app is for family members of those living with PTSD. The app provides extensive information about PTSD, how to take care of yourself, how to take care of your relationship with your loved one or with children, and how to help your loved one get the treatment they deserve.
- Mothers and Babies Online Course: A well-validated, web-based program for depression (available in both English and Spanish) for pregnant women, new mothers, and those who want to support them.
- COVID Coach: Created for everyone, including veterans and service members, to support self-care and overall mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Spiral Up! Stress Overload App by EBT: Emotional brain training (EBT) turns toxic negative emotions into positive feelings in 1–2 minutes based on a new technology of emotion science (summary at ebt.org). The method’s free app is available at spiralup.org or at your app store as Spiral Up!
- CBT-i Coach - Free cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, available for iOS and Android.
If you are interested in finding mental health apps, please consider using PsyberGuide — a helpful non-profit site developed by UCSF alum and UC Irvine professor Stephen Schueller, PhD, that provides expert reviews on mental health apps (both credibility and user experience) and offers solid recommendations.