Article by Rheyanne Weaver
Technology seems to get a bad rap when it comes to health, but some cell phone applications actually claim to improve health – specifically mental health.
The Universal Thinking Device application, released in March by Positive Application LLC, allows users to engage in more positive thinking and reach specific goals. It’s currently only available on the iPhone and other variations of Apple technology, like the iPod Touch, but one of the owners and chief operations officer Stephen Koch said the app will be released on the Droid in two weeks, and on the Blackberry two weeks after the Droid. The iPhone app costs $3.99.
The app wasn’t currently compatible with my iPod Touch, but the website and Koch explained how it’s supposed to work. There are hundreds of “power words” and “affirmations” that users can choose from, and these can be sent to the user throughout the day, depending on the chosen settings. Goals can be set up with these words and affirmations, as well as pictures. For example, if a woman wants to lose weight to be healthier, she can look forward to receiving positive affirmations like “My body is perfectly fine the way it is, but losing weight will make me feel even better.”
“We founded … Positive Applications so we can develop apps that promote positive thinking and thinking in the affirmative,” Koch said. “A lot of people think positive but you actually have to show action toward that and believe, almost visualize, and then an action.”
He wants to help people to have a positive outlook and promote kind and giving behavior as a result. It can also help people prioritize and “understand how the universe works, where your thoughts … you’re creating your destiny every day.”
“You’re thinking and thinking, might as well think positive or think good things and have a good spirit and treat people kindly and it’ll come back to you tenfold,” Koch said.
He said his wife uses the app for weight loss, and uses an older picture of herself to help motivate her to lose weight. He uses it while running to help breathe correctly, stay in rhythm and distract himself from any pain. The app could also be more customized to help people play golf, for example.
Although there are similar apps that promote positive thinking, Koch said this one is unique because it has more options, including the background picture, notifications and goals. Many just send one positive quote or affirmation a day.
It seems there are many apps centered around health in general, including mental health, relaxation and improving self-esteem. For example, a Mashable article lists the Top 8 iPhone apps for self-help, including the customizable iZen Garden 2 for $3.99. I personally used the iZen Garden 2 app and decided I would enjoy taking a nap with the nature-oriented music playing. It’s also just plain fun to create a zen garden with multiple decoration options (at least if you’re in a creative mood). But some apps, like the Universal Thinking Device, extend beyond simple games and relaxation. There is the myinstantCOACH app that helps support you through issues in different categories, like relationships, finances, career and well-being. This app is for free. There are also multiple daily affirmation apps, stress-relieving apps and meditation apps. One app, called “AntiStress – Shake your stress away,” allows the user to shake the iPhone or iPod Touch with voice alerts and encouragement to take out frustrations on the device until they are gone. The app suggests using this to relieve stress and anxiety even during a panic attack. The app called iShatter allows you to break multiple things shown on your screen, instead of relieving frustrations in a similar way in-person.
After a while, it’s almost addicting finding all of these useful apps. For your enjoyment, I’ve included a few websites with lists of these types of apps under sources. Besides using some of the relaxation, positive thinking and goal-setting apps, I think I’m going to use an ab workout app I found. Who ever realized technology could be so useful for health?
Karen Calfas, the assistant vice chancellor of student wellness at University of California, San Diego, is a clinical psychologist who uses technology in health promotion. However, she isn’t as familiar with technology in regard to mental health specifically.
“There’s a big link between positive thinking and good mental health,” Calfas said. “One of the main approaches to helping people improve their mood overall … is to focus on more positive ways of developing perspective and more positive ways that they interpret things that are happening to them.”
She said she can see how technology could be useful to promote good mental health.
“I know that a lot of the work that people do in positive thinking is just to find a way to remind themselves to do it,” Calfas said. “I can definitely see how using technology to do that would be a very reasonable approach. I’m sure that there’s a lot of promise for using technology to help people improve their mood and how they perceive things.”
One way for women to think more positively is to analyze any negative thoughts.
If women have negative thoughts, they can “ask themselves questions about ‘Is this something that is real?’ ‘How much evidence is there that this negative thought I’m having is true?’”
“People in general … tend to interpret things negatively when in fact that’s not the case,” Calfas said, and that leads to people feeling bad when they don’t have to.