Quantify yourself with these apps and wearables.
If you’re one of the many people constantly seeking better ways to live life to the fullest, you may have tried one of the many apps listed below. Happily, like-minded people have spent years of effort thinking of new and innovative methods for simplifying self-improvement. With ever-improving technologies, the array of tools available to us is also constantly growing: new life-tracking apps and wearables are being developed every day.
Perhaps the most popular type of life-tracking app or wearable are those that help to track our personal data, and then paint us a picture using the data the device collects. This picture, or our “Quantified Self”, can give us an honest and measured reflection of our current selves as well as make clear in what ways we can continue to improve.
Though psychology can offer some insights into how we can improve our ourselves, everyone is not created equal – what works for your friend may not work for you, so finding the right gadget or mobile app can make all the difference.
What do you have to lose? Browse through the many options below to see if you can find the app that will change your life for the better.
Table of Contents
Best apps for healthy eating and weight loss
MyFitnessPal makes counting calories easier than ever. Its huge database contains nutritional information on just about everything you could possibly eat. If you cook something yourself, you can input the ingredients and it will calculate the caloric value. It also saves your favorite foods which makes inputting your meals every day easy and quick.
HealthyOut is a boon for those of us who prefer to eat out, but still want to eat healthy. Input your address and then add filters for cuisine and the app will present you with menus offering the healthiest options available.
Rise is an affordable dietician. Begin by consulting a nutrition coach and then start taking photos of your snacks and meals to send through the app. For $20 a month, your personal dietician will check-in with you to offer feedback and tips on how to improve your eating habits.
Best apps for exercise and fitness
Nike+ Training Club gives you regular new workouts with easy-to-follow instructional and motivational videos. It also connects you with friends so that you can push each other to continue working towards your goals. There’s a huge selection of workouts so that you can tailor your experience to your skill level.
Fitnet helps you perform exercises correctly. It provides real-time feedback to keep you focused and on-point. As you follow workout videos from trainers, the app uses the camera on your phone or tablet to tell you how well you’re doing the exercises and keeping up with the workout (so no cheating!).
Xiaomi Mi Band, Jawbone UP, and Fitbit Flex are just a few exercise-tracking wearables to help you meet your fitness goals. Even if you’re not sure what your fitness goals are yet, simply wearing the data-tracking devices will help you measure your current baseline and use those to set exercise goals for the immediate and long term future.
Best apps for sleeping
The Zeo Headband is a personal sleep manager that fits comfortably around your head while you sleep. It comes with a bedside display that shows last night’s sleep data and stores up to two weeks of data for easy viewing. When you wake up, it gives you a personal sleep score – your “ZQ” – and shows a graph of your Light, Deep and REM sleep over the course of the night. It even has a “SmartWake” alarm feature that monitors your sleep in order not to wake you directly from a deep sleep.
That’s only one of its many features to help you improve the quality of your sleep – making it a must-try life-tracking wearable for anyone who struggles to get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep Cycle is a simpler mobile app (for those who aren’t ready for a wearable). While the Zeo comes with tons of functionalities, the Sleep Cycle’s focus is to help those who have trouble waking up do so more successfully. By placing your phone near or on your bed, the app uses motion detectors and sound to measure what cycle of sleep you’re in, and then wakes you up when it’s detected you’re in the lightest possible stage of sleeping.
Best apps for mood improvement
MoodPanda is for those of us who struggle to maintain a good mood but aren’t sure why. Use this journaling app to log your mood and track your activities throughout the day. Over time, you’ll get a picture (literally – graphs and charts) of the days you were most and least happy. Then you can see trace back through those days to see what triggered your good or bad mood.
Moodscope is a similar app that allows users not only to track their moods but moreover share their mood updates with friends. You can also “play” a regular card game designed by psychologists to take an accurate assessment of your moods.
Happiness is an app that uses clean design and simple user experience to track your emotional states and the triggers behind them. The app aggregates the information you journal into infographics to give users a clear picture of their mental wellness, helping to improve your self-awareness.
Emotion Sense logs your mood by sending you short surveys throughout your day. It’s run from a database at the University of Cambridge. The app collects information on your mental state based on the survey as well as the way you use your phone. Over time, the aggregated information provides a fascinating picture of yourself.
Best apps for time management
Remember the Milk is a simple task manager that you can link to your Google alerts, Evernote, Outlook or Siri in order to ensure you’re on top of all the little things that need doing. Simply make a note of it and be reminded later at the appointed time.
Checky performs a vital service – tracking how often you check your phone. Research shows we are on our phones for 23 out of 365 days in the year. Those are some depressing statistics, but you can break the habit with this app. Checky will tell you how often you check your phone and in what situations. So if you’re spending your subway ride home staring at your phone, no big deal. But if you’re frequently checking your phone during family dinner, you might want to check yourself.
RescueTime is another app we all need. If you’re one of those computer, phone or tablet users who surfs the web in bed only to find another night wasted to Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr or your addicting website of choice, you should use RescueTime. It works by running in the background on your device, tracking the time you spend on various applications and website to give you an accurate picture of your day. Set alerts to tell you when to stop browsing a certain website or track how much time you spend answering emails every day. You can even block yourself from accessing those website you are particularly addicted to.
Pocket is an easy way to come back to what you’re doing without wasting too much time every day staring at screens. When you’re surfing the web and you come upon something you want to read but you don’t have time for the full 4,000 words, or you find a video you want to watch but you haven’t brought your earphones, simply use Pocket to save and view later.
Best apps for goal-setting
Habit List is an app that helps you reach your goals by creating good habits and breaking unhealthy ones. Set your prioritized tasks for the day, stay on track with reminders and view trends over time to follow your progress and find motivation to keep going.
stickK makes use of a “Commitment Contract” to help you achieve your goals: define your goal, outline what steps and timeline will be needed to accomplish it, and add accountability – select friends to be your motivators and post updates as you work towards your goal.
Coach.me is there for you when you can’t afford a real life coach. Though deluxe versions of the tool offer full career coaching, you can download the free habit-tracking app to learn a new skill, improve your happiness and relationships, be more productive and challenge yourself to something new. Track, set targets and celebrate milestones.
Habits uses scientifically proven methods to encourage a continuous chain or repetition of an activity in order to internalize and retain it for good. It also provides the option to share your good habit chains over social media to leverage a support network of friends in your self-improvement journey.
AskMeEvery is the simplest tool available for goal progress tracking. It’s a website that allows you to set yourself a specific question to ask you every day via email or text. Every day you send in your answer and the site tracks your progress over time and shares the visualized data with you.
Best apps for mindfulness
Reporter is a simple app that sends you surveys and quizzes throughout the day which is then collated into graphs. It’s an easy way to track whatever you want, similar to AskMeEvery but slightly more thorough. Take stock of your daily habits – even those you’re not fully aware of – to increase mindfulness and self-reflection. If you don’t have an Apple device, check out similar app Daytum.
Equanimity sets aside time in your busy day for meditation. Clear your mind, learn to observe, but take a step back from your thoughts every day with this app. When the timer is up, soft chimes will alert you to bring you gently back to the realities of your day.
Best apps for budgeting
Mint is one of the easiest options for budget tracking apps because you can link it directly to your bank account. (Don’t worry, it uses the same security measures used by online banking and software like TurboTax.) Mint sends you customized tips on how you can curb your spending habits and alerts you when it detects unusual charges. It also provides your credit score and contains a bill pay functionality so that you can manage all your finances directly from one app.
You Need a Budget helps users allocate every dollar, plan for infrequent expenses, recover if you overspend and break out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. It’s a painless solution to cutting back on spending and putting more in savings every month.
Wally is a great expense tracker, bill pay reminder and savings tracker. It’s not just for everyday life but also handy for holidays or business trips that will need reimbursement. Manually enter or take photos of receipts, and use location services to log where you made the purchase.
Best apps for health management
Foursquare isn’t just for checking in and getting a free drink at your local bar. Use Foursquare in tandem with a general quantified self tracker like Daytum, Reporter, or Sleep Cycle to track your general health. Do you have an allergic reaction after you eat at your favorite Chinese food place? Do you sleep poorly after every Thursday happy hour you attend? Leverage Foursquare to create healthier habits.
23andMe is an easy and interesting look into who you really are. For $99, learn what percent of your DNA is from populations around the world, contact your DNA relatives across continents or across the street, and build your family tree to enhance your experience with relatives. It may also offer insight into hereditary medical conditions. You never know what you may discover in your genes.
CureTogether is a tool that allows those managing chronic conditions to crowdsource their management methods. By connecting with other people sharing the same or similar experience, users can access a support network and learn better strategies for managing their own conditions.
Life-tracking wearables of the future
By now the word “wearable” has permeated our vocabulary, and on every child’s (and big kid’s) Christmas list this year you could find a drone. What you may not know is that clever marketers around the world are already brainstorming ways to combine the benefits of wearables, life-tracking devices and drones into one tool.
The first among them, Nixie, is set to to be released soon. This wearable camera comes with you everywhere you go – and can fly off your wrist to film something on demand (and come back to you, of course).
While the Nixie is nifty, for practical life-tracking purposes, prototypes like on-demand air filters and umbrellas give users tremendous practical value. The Breathe, for example, is a small plastic drone that sits on the shoulder when not in use. The plastic lung senses pollution levels. When levels of pollution rise too high, the propeller launches the drone into the sky, where it flits in front of the your face and filters pollution from the air you breathe.
The Parasol is a weather drone that either hooks into the belt or is worn as jewelry. It detects humidity and temperature. If ultraviolet radiation levels get too high or it begins to rain, the drone’s propellers launches it into the sky where it forms a large disk that constantly adjusts its position to protect the user from the environment.
While these devices are still purely conceptual, they offer an exciting sneak peek into the future of life-tracking wearables. With such exciting ideas in the works, who knows what technology might make possible within a few short years?