Wellness Apps for Teenagers

by lsisterhen

It can be difficult to get teenagers to stop long enough to take a deep breath, much less to appreciate the impact of a few moments of relaxation. There are so many demands on their attention that constant stimulation may almost seem like a fact of life. Let’s face it: solitary practice of anything that requires stillness and awareness is just plain boring. Teenagers are just beginning to build self-awareness and are used to a fast-paced life with constant social connections, especially through their phones and computers. The cell phone usually holds the spot as a teenager’s best friend—a provider of entertainment, information, and a connection to friends and the rest of the world. Using apps is as natural as breathing for today’s teenager, so it only makes sense that they would be the best option for teaching them to breathe deeply. Luckily there are several age-appropriate options that introduce students to the art of staying in the moment through meditation, relaxing deeply through deep breathing, and staying fit for optimal health and well-being. Many are individualized according to a user’s needs, and many also use a game-like format to get users motivated. Three of my favorites are listed below.

Stop, Breathe, and Think:
For students who might be put off by the somewhat lofty and abstract notion of meditation, this app makes it approachable with straightforward, teen-friendly language. Users begin by “checking in” and stating how they feel mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even this brief check-in period gives users a chance to increase self-awareness. They are then given a choice of a few different types of meditations based on their needs on that particularly day. Fifteen meditations are offered, ranging from 3 to 10 minutes; some examples include a gratitude meditation to reinforce contentment or a body scan to help when feeling fearful or unsettled, as well as narrations for mindful breathing and a mindful walk. A “My Progress” chart allows you to find out your “weekly settledness” score, your total time meditating, and your most-cited emotions. Students can earn stickers based on achievements such as the number of days meditating or the number of times on a particular meditation. The “How it Works” section takes a close, serious look at the practice of meditation from both a scientific and spiritual standpoint. Music teachers will especially appreciate the emphasis on consistency of practice. This app could easily be used as a warm-up before lessons begin, and teachers can also check out their students’ scores and progress.

BellyBio Interactive Breathing (free)
If you are working with students on deep breathing, this app is one of the best ways to get them to enjoy the process and improve their focus. It is fun to use, very calming, and has a “cool factor” that would appeal to an older teenage crowd. Calling itself “the first Abdominal Music Player,” this app allows users to put their iPad or iPhone on their belly so it tilts back and forth when they breathe deeply. Because the rhythm of one’s breathing and abdominal breathing movements is then synchronized with music, the creators say that it allows you to “experience music at a deeper and broader level.” The music itself is very relaxing and combined with deep breathing, it allows the mind to enter a meditative state. Visually, it shows the color red on the inhale and blue on the exhale, and it tracks progress using a chart that measures stress levels from 0-5, with a score of 0-2 labeled as calm, very calm, or extremely calm. There is also a log to show the date, duration of breathing, minimum stress level, and minimum breath rate over time.

BodiMojo: Wake My Mojo (free)
Since music teachers form a close relationship with their students, they can talk one-on-one with students about their lifestyle and help them recognize the importance of taking care of their whole selves—body, mind, and spirit. Students cannot perform at their best in school, sports, music practice, or any type of performance without adequate sleep, a healthy diet, and regular exercise.

Of these three things, talented high school musicians often seem to be most lacking in proper exercise. They often see the student athletes as their opposites, but music teachers can help them see the similarities between the two fields. Let them know that the music that they play requires great endurance and speed. Regular exercise also enhances mood, reduces stress, increases coordination, and enhances awareness of muscular tension and relaxation—all important factors in great music-making and effective practice.

“BodiMojo” is a great resource for adolescents who want to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Designed for teens, and visually appealing to them (especially preteens or younger teenagers), this health tracker game features an adorable mojo avatar and an easy-to-use interface. Teenagers log in their daily physical activity (fitness), the food they eat, and their mood in order to keep the “mighty mojo” nourished. Users can earn points and see health stats over time, enabling them to set their own health goals and gain a greater awareness of their self-care regimen.

There are, of course, countless other wellness apps devoted to getting sleep, deep breathing, autogenic training for relaxation, and meditation. These are just three that seem to work well with the teenage population. Please feel free to share any other resources that you have used on your own or with your students! Because of their ease of use, constant access, and “fun” factor, apps are one of the best ways to develop awareness and set goals for your students to attain wellness in all areas of their life, which results in a greater ability to focus, practice consistently, and communicate effectively in performance.

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