The online world and devices in our pockets aren’t always conducive to mental wellbeing. The endless checking of social media and always present technology, such as smartphones and, nowadays, smartwatches can make it even harder to find calm in the chaos.
And while there are plenty of gadgets and apps that are aimed at improving our physical health, there are far fewer that are focused on our mental.
That could be down to the fact that, more often than not, advice centres around time away from devices and screen. To relax, we are told, we need to escape from our technology.
But although taking a Facebook holiday, or setting up our router to switch off the internet at certain times of the day are interesting ideas, they haven’t really stuck for us. Surely there is a way to track and help our mental constitution using the very technology some would blame on denting it in the first place?
There is. It's called Realifex.
It is an app available for iPhone and Apple Watch that has made a real difference to our general wellbeing. It helps you keep track of happiness (and sadness) in a number of different, useful ways.
As a private diary it captures your life experiences in simple blog posts. But unlike other journals, you start by picking an aspect of life (Experience, Action, Emotion, Decision or Discovery) then place that icon on a matrix. Happy items are placed on the right and sad items on the left. You can then specify whether it’s had a high or low impact on you with its vertical position.
At first, categorising our wellbeing check-ins in this way felt a little odd, forced even. But over time we learned how we wanted to use the different areas and developed a set of tags to complement each of our journal records.
It’s quick and easy - essential if you are already worn out managing a low mood. You can enter a post on the iPhone or via the Apple Watch app. Both work well, with the watch option making it easier to check-in on the go. In fact it’s become one of our favourite apps on the Watch and actually gives another good reason to keep wearing (and charging) Apple’s fashionable tether.
Realifex looks great as well. Not only in the cute icons for each of its categories, but the way it presents your data. Throughout there is a sense of calm design and lack of clutter.
After a few weeks there is enough data for Realifex to really come into its own. You can view a Life Path that weaves a line between happy and sad moments. In a glance this offers a quick check of how your buoyancy is doing. When we see this Life Path element fluctuating up and down between happy and sad extremes we know we need to take some time out.
The Insights area extends this rendering of your data. Life Focus show a series of graphs for each tag you have used in your posts. This uncovers which types of things bring you down most often, and which are most edifying.
Life Summary offers a heat map of happy and sad events, based on the type of entry you have created. We found this less useful because there was no readable pattern in my data. Others may well get more out of this than me though.
Finally, Life Map shows you the geography of your happiness. Because we usually post at home, the data here was less helpful. But if you travel a lot or have a life that moves around more this may uncover useful insights.
As writers, Realifex had the added benefit of being a place to elaborate on notes that were just for us. At first, entries were just a few simple words, but over time we enjoyed writing a few paragraphs to reflect on how “We're doing in the head departmenr”. It feels a bit like blogging for an audience of one — no likes, comments or view-count, what a relief!
Perhaps the biggest downside of the app is a lack of information online about how much it costs. You get 10 days free to try it out, but then you need to subscribe to the service. It’s not expensive at £4.49 for 12 months but you don’t really discover that before downloading and there’s little mention on the website.
While we can’t say that our lives have been dramatically altered thanks to Realifex, we can vouch for this being a very useful tool to help uncover one of the most complex and confusing issues on the planet — what’s going on inside our heads.