Appiness Part 2: Apps That Make Us Healthier

Apps that make us healthier

Last week, I shared with you some of my favorite apps for actually increasing your happiness. This week, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite apps for making you healthier. We tend to think of technology as the antithesis of health. Hours spent watching television or playing with our iPhones are not hours outside getting exercise. That can be true, but it’s also true that, used correctly, our iPhones can actually help us eat healthier and get us up and moving. Here are a few of my favorite apps for doing just that. As usual, all are free!

Waterlogged

         Waterlogged alarm screen                      Waterlogged alarm screen

 Most of us don’t drink enough water daily, yet water is crucial to our health. We’re mostly water! If you have trouble getting in your eight glasses a day, this app might be what you need. It allows you to track your water consumption daily, and even graphs your water consumption over time to show how you’re doing in meeting your goals. It also lets you set alarms as often as you want to remind you to drink water. It has capabilities to sync with Fitbit as well, which I’ll mention below.

 

Restaurant Nutrition

Restaurant Nutrition Calorie Count                    Restaurant Nutrition Menu Selection Screen

There is nothing worse than trying to eat healthy when going out. It’s almost a helpless feeling if you’re at a restaurant where calorie counts aren’t on the menu. You’re left guessing amidst tricks and traps, like weird amounts of sugar in McDonald’s salads, or 2,000 calorie Chili’s nachos (ouch). This app isn’t glamorous in aesthetics but it can solve the problem. It uses publicly available nutrition facts to provide nutrition info for tons of chain restaurants and snack places. It’s easy to read and can help you make a good dinner decision in a pinch.

 

MyFitnessPal

Myfitnesspal                 Myfitnesspal Calorie Breakdown

This app is an all-in-one and a classic. You can set goals for your nutrition, weight loss, water consumption, and track them over time. MyFitnessPal comes equipped with calorie counts for tons of common foods, and you can also add your own entries or scan barcodes to get nutrition facts. The interface is clean and easy to use. I’m a huge fan of this app. The only one I love more is…

 

Fitbit

Fitbit home               Fitbit Sleep

Okay, disclaimer, this one isn’t completely free. Here’s why: the app is the companion to the Fitbit line of pedometers, which, of course, you have to buy. But if you’re serious about fitness and tracking your health, there’s no comparison. The basic Fitbit, the Zip, starts at around $50.00. I have the Flex, which is about $100.00

But I included it here because it is actually a life-changing product, in my opinion.

The app is fantastic. Basically, regardless of which pedometer you get (if you can even call it that, it’s so much more), you can sync it to your iPhone using bluetooth, and see all of your daily steps taken and calories burned without entering a single thing into the app. It also allows you to add your food for the day, which then gives you a comprehensive view of your calories in and out.

If you have the Flex, you can also wear it while you sleep and track your sleep patterns. The app will tell you at what times you’re restless during the night and at what times you sleep soundly, allowing you to improve your sleep. You can also purchase the Fitbit scale, which can sync with the Fitbit pedometer and directly record your weight. And if you have friends that also have Fitbits, you can connect and compete for meeting daily step goals or other goals.

How do you stay fit? Have you tried any of these apps?

I hope you have a Thursday filled with appiness!

Xoxo, Taylor

 Header image based on “iPhone 4’s Retina Display v.s. iPhone 3G” by Yutaka Tsutamo, CC-BY-2.0.

Clouded Vision: My Struggle with Anxiety

Since childhood, I’ve never been alone. I never realized it, but it was always there: in the moment I woke up in elementary school from a dead sleep, paralyzed in panic over an overdue library book, in the times I found myself frenzied over being late, in the moment I left my senior celebration early because I didn’t want to be around people.

For my whole life, I’ve been followed by anxiety.

Growing up, I always thought I was normal. If you’d have asked me, I’d have described myself as “type A,” a little “high-strung,” a “perfectionist.” I would have told you it was a good thing. I would have told you I was the type of person that got things done, that over-achieved, that went the extra mile.

I would have believed myself.

In junior high and high school, the perfectionism became a problem. Worries over assignments turned into tears and long hours of stress. By the end of senior year, these episodes became almost weekly occurrences.  I would come home, break down, try to talk it out with family, and end up going to bed early, hoping that sleep would finally give my mind some peace. I catastrophized constantly, believing every test grade would have a larger-than-life impact. I believed the graduation of my friends would lead to the end of my social life. I believed the worst was always around the corner.

I still never really realized that anything was wrong with me.

For some strange reason, coming to college temporarily stifled the stresses. Freshman year went surprisingly smoothly, and I chalked the stresses of high school up to the pressure of getting into college. Now that I was at my dream school, I’d be able to calm down. I believed I had moved on, that I was a different person. In an application for a campus club, I even wrote about overcoming my “worries,” as I called them. “It’s hard to break the habit of constant questioning, of worrying, stressing, and obsessing, but I’ve already come such a long way,” I wrote.

This school year was different. I realized something was wrong.

I came back to school sophomore year enthusiastic and ready for another year, but the enthusiasm quickly faded. I was going to the gym daily, but despite being tired, I couldn’t sleep at night. My moods were off, and I found myself feigning enthusiasm for things I used to enjoy. I attributed all of these things to the “sophomore slump.” The newness of college wears off after freshman year, I told myself. It’s okay to feel a little out-of-sorts. I did begin to notice, however, a growing stress over social interactions. I’d always thought of myself as outgoing, but I found myself avoiding new crowds of people and unfamiliar situations where I knew no one.

One night, I had the closest thing I’ve ever had to a panic attack. It started with something small that had upset me, but spiraled quickly out control. I was short of breath and felt sick to my stomach. It was like the world was closing in on me while my mind ran a million miles an hour, ricocheting wildly off of the walls of my skull. I felt crazy. I didn’t know which feelings were real and which weren’t. I was having bizarre thoughts, uncharacteristic thoughts, and I didn’t know how to stop them.

Finally, I realized something was really, truly wrong.

As of about two months ago, I finally came to the realization that what I’ve been dealing with all my life isn’t a case of a high-achiever mindset or of a love of perfectionism. I’ve been dealing with anxiety, and more recently, situational depression related to it.

Anxiety is all-consuming. It can affect your relationships, your work, your leisure time. It can tell you things that aren’t true, and unknowing of its power, you believe them. It’s something separate from yourself, an outside force that distorts reality.

After beginning to work through all of the triggers of my anxiety and learning how to manage it, I’ve realized that all my life, I’ve never seen clearly. If you have glasses, you know what it’s like when you look over a pot of boiling water. Your glasses fog up. You can’t see anything. Now imagine that you try to do to your calculus homework after that. Maybe you can see a little, but it’s awfully difficult to see what’s happening. Is that a five? Am I supposed to divide or multiply? And you’re constantly reminded of your glasses and the fog. It’s always there, always present, and clouding everything.

This is how I lived the first nineteen years of my life.

I’m sharing my experience because I have the strong feeling that I’m not alone. I know there are some of you who will think that I’m crazy, or you won’t be able to relate. There are others of you, more importantly, who will read this and realize that in some small or some larger way, it reminds you of yourself.

I’m writing for you.

I want you to know a few things. First, you aren’t weird, different, or the only one who feels as you do. Many people struggle with feelings of anxiety, in varying degrees. Whether people are willing or able to admit it, anxiety is a common problem, especially among college students, I suspect. You’re not alone. The issues affecting those with anxiety can range from body image to test anxiety and everything in between.

Second, you don’t have to keep living with it. Waking up frequently at night in a panic isn’t just something that happens. Feeling extreme anxiety before every exam isn’t just part of college. We all have moments of anxiety or stress, but when it begins to affect how you live your daily life, it’s not okay anymore. I didn’t realize for most of my life that what I was grappling with wasn’t a personality quirk or a given, but an outside force that I was allowing to affect me in a profound and even crippling way.

If you need to, don’t be afraid to seek outside help. Sometimes it takes someone else to help us know ourselves and how we think. If you’ve let your glasses stay foggy for that long, you might not know how to make them clear again.

Finally, anxiety is an obstacle, not a limit. Learning to recognize anxious thoughts and behaviors and identify them as such is empowering. It allows me to say I am a person who sometimes has anxious thoughts, not a person who is consumed by anxiety.

I think of it as the difference between a tiny lily pad floating in a giant pool of water, and a tall, tall sunflower whose leaves collect a drop or two of water when the morning dew settles. When the night falls, and when the droplets of dew cling, I can shake them off. I’m not consumed by the anxiety, not drowned by it. It’s only a small part of how I live my life, a life that I hope will only become more rich and clear as I am finally beginning to see clearly for the first time.

 

 

If you have similar experiences or if this touched you in any way, I would love to hear about it. Please comment below.

“I DECLARE FORGIVENESS!”

I’ve been dealing for quite a few years now with someone in my life that in the past caused me pain and dampened my self-confidence. For a long time, I’ve told people that I’ve “forgiven” that person. And in my mind, I had. I decided to let bygones be bygones. For a while, I was able to see the person and speak with them with little negative feeling. I felt that I had moved on, and that this person would no longer cause me any suffering.

And with that, I “forgot.” I moved on. I decided that by making sure I didn’t have to see this person, speak with them, or have any contact whatsoever, that the forgiving and forgetting would be easy. Out of sight, out of mind.

This turned out to be a less-than-efficient strategy. I found that as the months of “forgetting” went by, no forgetting was happening. It was just making the remembering ten times harder. As hard as I tried to forget, remnants of this person lingered. If I’d effectively “forgiven and forgotten,” these reminders wouldn’t bother me. I found, however, that these reminders were almost worse than the original transgressions. Every time I even heard mention of the person, I was filled with negative feelings of insecurity, frustration, and sadness. Even though I felt that I had a life worth being extremely content with, the old feelings of inadequacy given to me by this person would quickly creep back in. The slightest mentions of the person would quickly send me into a negative frame of mind.

Recently, after having another bout of mis-forgetting, I decided to do a little introspection. Why wasn’t my “forgive and forget ” strategy working? It was, after all, the adage of countless generations past.

I’m slowly realizing that the key to true forgiveness and happiness isn’t to “forgive and forget,” it’s to “forgive and remember.” I compare this to the PTSD treatment used by some psychotherapists. Instead of allowing the patient with PTSD to bury their feelings about the incident deep down, they ask the patient to relive the experience repeatedly, sometimes tens of times, until the experience no longer causes them pain and they’ve learned to develop neutral or positive feelings about the event that caused the PTSD.

While I’m not advocating that the key to forgetting is to make yourself painfully relive the event, the basic idea is the same: sweeping things under the rug doesn’t help you forgive or forget. I’ve found that not allowing myself to remember and cope has caused me to actually go backward in the forgiving process.

I’m still struggling with how to forgive, but I’m realizing that forgiving is active. It’s not something we can allow to happen by just saying the magic words “I forgive!” It’s like the episode of The Office where Michael Scott, after hearing that he may have to declare bankruptcy, stands up in the office and loudly shouts, “I… DECLARE…BANKRUPTCY!” Just like Michael didn’t actually declare bankruptcy, I can’t forgive just by saying I have done so.

I’m finding that forgiveness requires constantly catching ourselves in the act of non-forgiving behavior, and allowing ourselves to be exposed to the source of our struggles, whether it’s a person or a situation. Only by constantly facing that which we struggle with can we adapt and overcome.

I haven’t overcome yet, but I’m working on adapting. In the words of Bernard Meltzer, “When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.”