Much has been written about how technology can harm our mental health. But can it also be used to do the opposite?
Many of us now use apps which help us to improve our wellbeing – by making it easier to eat healthily, exercise more, meditate and so on. Once such app, designed to help users manage stress, anxiety and depression, is Thrive. The makers of the app have kindly given me a month’s subscription in exchange for a review. So what was my take on the app, as someone who frequently battles with anxiety?
I found the app quite slow to load. This could be my phone, but I haven’t had issues with any other apps.
When you open the app, you are invited to drag a slider to say how you’re feeling. You’re then asked why you’re feeling this way – family, money, health etc – and what thoughts gave rise to these emotions. The app will then give you a compliment on a positive thought you had or something you did well. This activity is repeated every day when you open the app.
This process allows the app to give you personalised recommendations, which is good. I did feel it was somewhat limited, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if you rate your emotions below 50 they are classed as negative, whilst above 50 they are positive. This doesn’t allow for any nuance – in reality, 49 and 51 are more similar than 51 and 91, for example.
Secondly, you can only choose from the situations the app gives you. Several times, I’ve felt that my situation doesn’t quite fit any of them, so it’s been hard to know what to pick.
You then answer a selection of questions designed to assess how anxious or depressed you have felt in the past two weeks. If the app identifies that you are experiencing anxiety or depression, it advises you to seek professional help and provides you with links. This is a good idea, as many people may not feel their issues are serious enough to warrant seeking help. After doing this activity, you are given a few suggestions for daily activities you can do to help manage your mental state – for example, phoning a friend, meditation or exercise.
In the app, there are three desert islands (complete with palm trees!). You swipe to move between islands, and each has a few activities associated with it. On the first island, these include practices like breathing, deep muscle relaxation, and meditation, which the app will talk you through. I particularly enjoyed the muscle relaxation, as I hadn’t done it before and it was very calming. I already meditate and use breathing techniques daily, but for others it could be useful to have a reminder and be walked through the process.
There are a few fun games on the second island, which are intended to be used mostly for distraction purposes when you’re feeling anxious. You can make your own zen garden, do a challenge where you connect matching buckets, or – my personal favourite – play a word game. I think it’s nice to recognise that sometimes all we need is to take our minds off things.
The third island has general advice for managing issues you’ve identified, and information on your progress. It also allows you to send a positive message to someone else, which is a nice idea.
Overall, the concept behind the app is good, and I can see how it could help those who are really struggling. Personally, I already use many of the strategies that it suggests to manage my anxiety, which somewhat limits the benefit I can derive from it. But for many people, it could be a good introduction to these techniques. And from time to time, we all need to be reminded to call someone or do some exercise to keep us from feeling low.
With so many people struggling with mental health issues these days, it could definitely be useful to have a daily check-in to remind ourselves to practice healthy habits. If this sounds like something you would benefit from, you may want to check the app out! Note that there is a small monthly charge for using the app, which allows the creators to keep it ad-free.