Put science—and your thumbs—to work toward a happier life and a happier you. Grab your phone and start downloading these feel-good apps that’ll boost your mood with scientifically proven strategies.
Meditating on thoughts of love and kindness can amp up your happiness, according to research, by promoting positive thoughts toward yourself and others. Think of Headspace, created by YouBeauty Meditation Expert Andy Puddicombe, as a gym membership for your mind. You start with a 10-day free trial, where you learn the basics of meditation in just 10 minutes a day. Once that’s up, you can subscribe for $13 a month ($8 a month if you sign up for a year) to gain access to additional meditation series focused on health, performance and relationships, and one-off mindfulness exercises called “singles.”
This multifaceted app is based on the research-backed premises that gratitude breeds happiness and positivity is contagious. Share your happy moments—no matter how big or small—on the app’s built in mini social network, and get tons of inspiration in the form of bliss-boosting tips, daily challenges, and motivational quotes ranging from corny to compelling. At 20 bucks a pop, in-app purchases such as an on-the-go yoga class and a week’s worth of walking meditations are like happiness personal trainers in your pocket.
For iOS, free
3Gratitude Journal + Ultratext
Gratitude Journal focuses on the deep, mood-boosting benefits of expressing gratitude. The app prompts you to write down what you’re grateful for every day, and when you upload corresponding photos, the calendar view becomes a sweet collage of all your happy experiences over the past month. (If this sounds like an Oprah-approved invention, that’s because it is.)
Remember thank you cards? Consider Ultratext the millennial way to send a heartfelt “thx!” Type in a few words—“thanks so much,” “OMG ur the best”—and it automatically turns them into an easily textable GIF. Customize it with their favorite colors and a pic (a smiling selfie, maybe?) for maximum personalization.
Finding flow is a nuanced but essential piece of the happiness puzzle. You might think of it as being in the zone, or getting lost in something you love. Whatever you call it, being fully absorbed in an activity that challenges you and keeps you engaged makes you happier in general. This sketching and painting app will suck you in for hours at a time. But unlike many games (ahem, Candy Crush), it’s productive and creative, not mindless or frustrating. Sketchbook is like old-school Microsoft Paint on artsy steroids: It boasts an impressive number of brush types, an expansive color palette, and up to 30 levels of “undo” and “redo” to get your masterpiece juuust right. Only feel like doodling? The free Express version will still get you the basics, including various brushes and layering functions.
5Songza + Stereomood
Listening to music you love gives you a jolt of mood-boosting dopamine. Start your day singing with the playlist-generating app Songza, which has a category called “Waking Up on the Right Side of the Bed,” with subcategories that include “Soaring Morning,” “Freshly Squeezed” and “Sunny-Side Up Morning.” Alternately, you can use Stereomood to stream music by mood. They’ve covered all the high notes: joyful, energetic, groovy, good karma and pura vida.
John Denver was on to something when he sang, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” Natural environments provide significantly more moments of happiness than urban ones, according to a 2013 study published in Global Environmental Change. So make the time to go outside. Yonder helps get you out the door by introducing you to all kinds of outdoorsy activities around you: walking, biking, climbing, fishing, kayaking, birding and more. Connect with friends on the app—or make new ones through it—and share your adventures through photos, videos and geotagging.
For iOS, free