It’s a new year, a fresh start, and with that many of us vow to improve something about ourselves. Perhaps this is the year you finally lose the spare tire, kick the smoking habit or cut down on alcohol consumption.
Or maybe it’s time to better manage your finances, stress or work-life balance?
Regardless of what your New Year’s resolution is, as the expression goes, there’s an app for that. A healthier lifestyle could mean a clearer head at home and work, more energy, and increased happiness.
And so, the following are a few recommended – and free –downloads for your smartphone or tablet.
Log your food intake and exercise – wherever life takes you – so you can keep track of your fitness goals. This is the idea behind the free MyFitnessPal app (iOS, Android; myfitnesspal.com). More than 6 million foods and restaurant dishes are in the database – and you can scan the barcode of more than 4 million to automatically log the info –therefore you can expect an accurate look at your caloric intake for each meal.
Owned by Under Armour, the app securely synchronizes your data with the web version, too, should you want to log in on a computer.
A similar free app is Lose It! (loseit.com). Use your fingertip to set a goal – such as lose 5 pounds in one month – and then the program will calculate what should be your caloric intake each day. Tap in what you’ve been eating (by food, such as “one medium apple,” or even by brand, like one bowl of “Kraft Macaroni and Cheese”) and it will calculate the calories for you (and even fat, sodium, and so on, if you like). Exercise is also factored into your daily routine. Your info can be also synched to the LoseIt.com website.
Also part of the Under Armour family of apps is Map My Fitness (mapmyfitness.com), which lets you easily calculate the impact of your physical activity – whether it’s a walk, jog, run, hike, bike ride or rock climbing excursion. Heck, even vacuuming can be tracked.
Your workout is analyzed – including your time, pace, and estimated calories burned – so you can see you progress and stay motivated. The app can also connect you with other users in your area to join a group. If you like, you can even share your fitness goals and results with your social network. Devices, like activity trackers and heart rate monitors, are also supported.
Time not on your side? The Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout (7minuteworkout.jnj.com) is a celebrated – and completely free – app that gives you a seven-minute workout you can do anywhere, along with clear instructions on how to do each move, with a countdown timer for each.
For some fun fused with your fitness, the free Zombies, Run! (zombiesrungame.com) lets you hear a terrifying tale in your headphones about a zombie-infested future, and you’ll need to run faster to get away from the flesh-eating undead as they get closer. You’ll automatically collect supplies to build up your base, such as ammo and medicine for other human survivors.
This app features include more than 100 missions, a “Zombie Chase” interval training mode, the ability to run with your own music and optional synchronization with a password-protected website to track your progress on a map.
Manage your money
Set budgets, track expenses and reach your financial goals with apps such as Intuit’s Mint.com Personal Finance & Money (mint.com). This handy download for iOS and Android lets you see what you’re spending (and saving) through color-coded lists and graphs. Track your bank account balances and credit card bills in real-time, follow investments, and even break out your expenditures by category and receive alerts you when you’ve exceeded your budget. Personalized “MintSights” offer custom money-saving suggestions based on your finances.
Also included is free credit score monitoring, plus you can get fraud and identity alerts and updates to your score.
For kids, Bankaroo (bankaroo.com) and FamZoo Family Finance (famzoo.com) are two free iOS and Android apps that teach financial literacy.
If you need a bit of help to quit smoking, the free Livestrong MyQuit Coach (leafgroup.com) might be able to help motivate you to reach your goal in 2020.
Only for iOS, the app creates a personalized plan to help you quit smoking, and you can choose whether you want to go cold turkey or wean yourself off the nicotine. It’s up to you to input how many cigarettes you smoke, but you’ll see progress rings that keep track of your smoke-free streaks and money saved. You unlock goal-based achievements as extra motivation, and connect to a robust community of likeminded people for additional support.
Another good option; Quit Now for iOS and Android (quitnowapp.com).
While there are good paid apps to curb drinking – like BACTrack (bactrack.com), which works with the BACtrack Mobile Pro Bluetooth breathalyzer ($99) – there are also some free apps to give you a push in the right direction.
For Android, Sobriety Counter (play.google.com) lets you view the number of days you’ve spent without a drink, which could serve as a powerful motivating tool. You can also see how much money you’re saving through sobriety.
The app also includes a journal to help you record your progress and experiences, a distracting memory game, nearly 30 themes to personalize the look of the app (along with optional home screen widgets), and 64 badges that virtually reward you for not drinking.
Also free for Android is the I Am Sober app (iamsober.com). Available only for iOS, there’s also the free Quit That! – Habit Tracker (cozyapps.com), which lets you find out how long it’s been – minutes, hours, days, weeks or years – since you quit your vice. You can keep your progress private, and open the app to glance at your ongoing success – or choose to share your progress with friends and family.
Simple Habit (try.simplehabit.com) is an on-demand meditation platform built for busy people. With simple 5-minute lessons, the app features more than a thousand meditations guided by mindfulness teachers from around the world. For a more tailored lesson, you can choose the time, place and cause of your stress. For example, tap Tough Day or Big Event (perhaps before public speaking), or Morning Meditation, or At Work.
You can also pick a lesson by series (Drift to Sleep, Sharpen Focus, Meditate in Nature), and by the teacher of your choice (check out Australia’s Kate James, with her soothing voice and helpful instruction).
More than 50 sessions are free for iOS and Android, with the option to upgrade to a Premium version.
Another stellar meditation and mindfulness app is Calm (calm.com), which has guided sessions in varying lengths, ranging from 3 to 25 minutes, and with content designed for beginners, intermediate and advanced users.
You can choose a topic that matters most to you: Calming Anxiety, Deep Sleep, Self-Esteem, Forgiveness, Happiness, Managing Stress, Focus and Concentration, and so on. Track your progress with gamification elements, such as daily streaks, and check a tally of your time spent meditating. While there’s some free content to get you started, subscriptions start at $14.99 per month.