Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Is screen time routine or ritual? With the nation reporting higher mobile usage data than the global average, it’s worth considering if our phones might be the way to make wellness more accessible.
A wide array of mobile apps operate on this assumption: our devices are the key to better mental health. The best wellness apps on the market are beautiful, fuss-free, and easy to integrate into a daily routine. Easy integration is crucial. It’s the only way that apps can recruit downloads, retain users, and upgrade routines to rituals.
To improve the quality of our screen time, just add a little magic. This is the promise of the ritual, a series of everyday actions that sew meaning into our daily fabric.
Like routines, rituals are a set of frequently repeated behaviors. Both enable us to live by defining points of constancy in our day-to-day. The difference is a sense of mindfulness, what writer Jory McKay describes as, “deeper meaning beyond just a sequence of actions.” Routines claim that we are what we repeatedly do. Rituals offer that we are what we repeatedly think.
A few new downloads might just be the way to kickstart a mobile mindfulness ritual. Below are four of the best free options.
On the criteria of accessibility, community-based video streaming service YouTube is a clear front runner. The Google-backed website is available for free on every platform, and comes pre-installed in some devices.
A comprehensive array of wellness videos are available on the website. From sound therapy to yoga instructions, ASMR videos to guided meditations, the YouTube library covers a variety of mindfulness practices.
While the streaming service is no substitute to professional advice, a Dartmouth report states that many users flock to the site for mental health support. "What we found most surprising about our findings,” writes John Naslund, the lead author of the report, “was that people with severe mental illness were so open about their illness experiences on a public social media websites like YouTube.”
Meditation app Oak provides an excellent user experience without charging a premium. Similar apps offer mobile meditation at an annual subscription fee upwards of ₱1,000. Oak delivers the same features at no cost.
Oak has a beautiful interface, adjustable preferences, and an easy tracking feature. The app provides access to a small, curated library of meditations with various intentions.
Each five- to 20-minute session can be adjusted for instructor voice, ambient noise, and warmup duration. It upgrades user profiles based on frequency of use.
App founder Kevin Rose was inspired by his own study of Zen, Vipassana, and Transcendental Meditation when he created the app. “I wanted an app for the self-experimenter,” he writes. “One that would blend technology and meditation in a thoughtful and useful way.”
Though it is classified as a game, Vectorpark’s Sandcastles is a highly meditative experience. The straightforward premise asks users to draw little sandcastles. It only takes a drag across the fullscreen shore. The sandcastles are beautifully designed, varied, and then washed away in an instant.
The app has a 10- to 15-second interval before a tide invariably pulls into the shore, clearing the user’s creation. The cycle of Sandcastles is a raucous subversion of the modern mobile game, which is driven by statistics and progress.
Sandcastles is a neat reminder that everything changes, and that our work matters very little in the ocean of things. The game’s nihilist overtones challenges the stress that drives us to our phones in the first place. It is at first unsettling, and then deeply reflective.
Dawn Chorus is an alarm app that offers to make mornings more tolerable. Created by The Innovation Studio in collaboration with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Dawn Chorus uses genuine samples of bird songs to create customized alarms.
All bird songs used in the app are sourced from the archives of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The 20 birds included in the app are native to northeastern United States, where the museum is located. Birds on the app include the Ruby Crowned Kinglet and the Black-Capped Chickadee.
More than just a wake up call, Dawn Chorus is also a crash course in Ornithology. Tapping on each of the birds in the Dawn Chorus library displays a quick profile curated by the Carnegie Museum. The simple alarm app encourages gentle mornings and a visceral connection to wildlife.