“P1000638” (CC BY 2.0) by Transformer18
Modern life can be busy, hectic, stressful. Everyone needs to find time to relax, to switch off from the daily challenges we face. For most people, the smartphone is with us all the time; it’s an icon of contemporary society. It’s also one of the reasons we get stressed. Those endless emails, tragedy in the news, arguments on social media, a diary that’s full of things not yet done.
But the smartphone can also be a tool to de-stress. While those emails might still be coming in, those Facebook notifications popping up, and that Twitter feed filling up with more politicized keyboard battles, we can switch them off. At least for a while.
That’s when the smartphone can become a device for helping relaxation. Whether you’re suffering mild but persistent stress or experiencing anxiety disorders and depression, the smartphone possesses calming qualities.
Not only are there apps out there dedicated to helping people relax, there are ways to use your smartphone that can aid better sleep, enhance mindfulness (in other words, to live for the moment), and encourage a healthier lifestyle. All these things and more can significantly reduce your stress levels. Let’s take a look at 6 ways your smartphone can help relieve stress.
Exercise is one of the best ways to de-stress. When we use energy in such activity our bodies release endorphins which are known for improving mood. Smartphones, via a number of apps, can help encourage exercise, supporting your fitness regime and collecting data to help you set goals. These daily achievements not only ensure you’re producing the endorphins to lift your mood but you’re setting achievable targets that once achieved or beaten can further alleviate the effects of stress.
A good app to try for those with iOS and Android devices is Freeletics Bodyweight which is ideal for those that don’t have any gym equipment at home. There’s nearly 1,000 workouts based on time so you can do these around your busy schedule. There’s lots here from weight-loss exercise to strength-building workouts that last from five to 30 minutes.
Those with added determination can grab the C25K 5K Trainer which sets you the goal of running 5K in just two months. It’s a workout app that supports your training, helping you to build up your strength and stamina over time.
Night shift was introduced for a very good reason on iOS devices. Bright screens can account for people’s struggles falling asleep. That’s because studies suggest the blue light that is emitted from smartphone screens can negatively affect our production of melatonin. Without the proper effect of this important hormone, which makes us feel tired, we can often find it difficult to sleep when our head hits the pillow.
Night Shift’s introduction gives us a quick and easy way to alter the color hues of the screen to provide a warmer tone. For Android devices, while they don’t possess the same functionality, you can achieve a similar result with, for example, Galaxy device’s Blue Light Filter or via apps like f.lux.
Of course, shifting the color tone isn’t going to make any difference if an email about tomorrow’s big meeting pops up just as you turn out the bedside lamp. So, turn on Do Not Disturb as well to keep such alerts from disturbing your relaxation.
“Samsung Galaxy S8+ smartphone” (CC BY 2.0) by Andri Koolme
There’s an abundance of games available for smartphones. While many studies have been instigated with the presumption that video games can increase stress, there’s evidence that the opposite is the case. Indeed, in one study looking at stress recovery, 1614 game players were examined to measure how well video games helped those who had experienced heightened worry recently in their lives. Researchers found that gaming played a significant role in stress recovery.
Indeed, in another study, researchers looked at how in-game stress could be beneficial for players in their everyday lives. A study conducted by the Behavioral Science Institute in Holland found that consistent players of Starcraft 2 used the coping mechanisms learned while gaming in their day to day lives to relieve negative emotions.
So it might be time to download the popular iOS and Android game Beat the Boss if you’ve had a hard time at work or let off some steam with a spin of the wheel on an online slots machine such as Age of the Gods: King of Olympus, which, given that you can currently play with free spins and no deposit, is an even more attractive proposition.
Apps have been developed to help you relax by channelling the methods used in techniques like meditation and positive thinking to help you eliminate negative thoughts. Headspace, for example, provides guides to meditation sessions, 10 of which are free with others available via subscription.
Calm is another stress-relieving app that combines peaceful music and sounds with striking images to enhance meditation sessions and offer a support mechanism for those needing a little help. Recommended by organisations such as Mindful, Calm even has a night-time relaxation programme that provides “sleep stories” to help you transition into sleep.
While these apps have a small number of meditation sessions, Omvana, from personal growth specialists Mindvalley, allows you to add to the pre-loaded sessions with around 75 other free meditation guides. For younger people and children, Mindshift is another app that’s helpful to alleviate worry, its focus being on issues that cause anxiety in teenagers.
Smartphone as Support Mechanism
Research has shown that smartphones can offer us a non-medicinal break from the trials and tribulations of daily life. For those with social anxiety, they provide a connection to the outside world while interaction refocuses the mind away from a stressful situation.
And we can use our smartphones to interact with loved ones in more ways than just the traditional phone call. We can instantly share photos and videos with each other, for instance, via apps such as WhatsApp and can create private groups to share daily thoughts, memories and to find out what’s happening with friends and family away from the social media environment. This can reinforce a sense of belonging while strengthening relationship bonds.
Cut the Clutter
The smartphone is also a great organisational tool that can help us navigate the stresses of day-to-day life by, for example, giving us access to a calendar that can remind us about important events and to-do lists as and when we need to address them.
This can reduce the effect of overloading ourselves with things we need to get done, breaking tasks into bitesize, manageable pieces. We can even set reminders so that the phone does the hard task of memorizing all the to-do clutter.
Other ways our smartphones can simplify our stresses, reducing their impact, include using the phone to complement memory (don’t worry about where you parked the car, just take a quick snap to look at later), voice activation (“Siri, add to my shopping list milk”), and maps to give the worried driver a birds-eye view of the road layout ahead and offer guidance and satnav capability or walking routes to navigate yourself to that important meeting in a city you’re not familiar with.