How This One App Helped Me Build A Daily Mental Health Regimen From Scratch

How This One App Helped Me Build A Daily Mental Health Regimen From Scratch

I spend a lot of time trying to understand where anxiety comes from and learning how to manage it. I listen to the Jen Gotch Is OK…Sometimes podcast, I read all the books, I’ve gone to therapy. It has become a hobby of sorts, but it is first and foremost a way for me to take care of my health.

What motivates me is this: I don’t want to be the reason I can’t have nice things. It’s an ongoing learning process, the way mental health and self-care tend to be, but luckily it often feels like a fairly steep learning curve, one with plenty of rewards and few, if any, real risks. But a lot to be grateful for.

The idea of interrupting anxiety with gratitude forms the basis behind the app Grateful, a gratitude journal that allows you to log daily moments of appreciation. The app provides a few prompts—things like: “What made today a good day?” “What made you laugh today?” or “What are you looking forward to?”—and allows you to create your own.

You can then answer the question and include additional notes, or a photo if you’d like. You can set reminders too, though I prefer not to. For me, this isn’t homework; it’s an opportunity to reflect on my own progress and happiness, with the added bonus of having a months-long log of my daily highlights.

I began using Grateful mid-December. Since then, I’ve traveled to two countries, made a cross-country move, begun two job opportunities, and met several new people—and these are just the big things. The beauty of Grateful is that I can log these, but also the smaller things: a particularly fulfilling workout, a phone call with a friend, or the kind of burrito that deserves to be documented in meticulous detail for posterity.

The act of using this app has meant much more than simply expressing gratitude. It’s been one of many steps that have allowed me to consider my mental health and wellness big-picture and make them an integrated part of my life. The app has taught me to quite literally interrupt anxiety with gratitude—in the eight months that have passed since I began using it, I’ve taught myself that bad days and weeks pass and if I forget that, I have a literal log of just that in my phone.

On worse days, I’ll use the prompt, “What are you looking forward to?” and the act of doing so has taught me hope and patience. On the best days, I’ll have to keep myself from turning five great things into a paragraph, something that has taught me to appreciate the highs when they come. But perhaps most importantly, it’s the in-between days where I’ve seen a difference, days that are a bit more routine, during which I have to really think about what stands out. This forces me to stay present and mindful in my own life and to take note of what is important to me, what has an effect on my mood and well-being.

Through Grateful(this isn’t an #ad by the way!) I’ve been able to kick off a mental health regimen, one that also includes regular exercise, plenty of down time, and space for me to reach out to friends. The app is free for the first fifteen entries, after which you pay $3.99 to continue using it with a few additional features, but the practice is something you can do on your own, whether it be by putting pen to paper or jotting down good moments in the Calendar or Notes app on your phone.

There are also other gratitude apps out there. I chose Grateful because of the aesthetics and because it’s very user-friendly. It’s easy for me to look back and scroll through entries and to make sure I haven’t missed any days. It has a simple, clean design. I personally also paid for the app upgrade, something I do rarely, and it’s been more than worth it.

Mental health is a right, not a privilege. And practicing gratitude is free for everyone. It’s not as though downloading a single app has transformed my mental health and happiness (if only it were that simple). But this has been one of a series of good habits I work to build and maintain.

Mental health and well-being are my number one priority. Without them, my health, relationships, and work suffer and even if they don’t, they seem to mean less to me. And why not appreciate what I’ve got, right?