Whether it’s sleeping better, losing weight, stopping smoking or drinking less, you’ll find that someone else has got there first.
In the case of giving up cigarettes, that someone is the Government. The NHS Smoke Free app, for Apple and Android phones, puts you on a four-week programme of practical support, encouragement and tailored advice.
Some of its features, such as badges that reward your progress, may fall on the side of condescension – but the ability to calculate how much money you are saving is of more practical value. Similar apps, most of them free, include Quit Smoking Hypnosis and Craving To Quit.
Apps that aim to help you cut down on your alcohol consumption take a similar approach. The charity Drinkaware, which is funded largely by the nation’s alcohol producers and retailers, has one that tracks your intake over time, calculates the units and calories you have consumed, and helps you set goals to moderate your drinking.
The fact that it has an extensive database of alcohol brands might be seen by some as a thinly-disguised advert, but it does at least know of the alcohol by volume of each label.
The promotion of healthy eating is an industry in itself, though essentially it comes down to telling us to eat less and exercise more. That, of course, is more easily said than done, so programs like Fat Secret and Myfitnesspal put databases of ingredients at your fingertips and advise you on how best to serve them. Some are quite gimmicky, with image recognition features that can identify what you are about to put into your mouth. If you can’t do that yourself, it shouldn’t take an app to tell you not to eat it.
Apps dedicated to helping you lose weight are part of the same, well-established industry that hits its peak at this time of year. Some, like MyFitnessPal, are part of suites that also encompass nutrition; others, like the simple Water Drink Reminder, whose entire functionality is contained in the title, concern themselves with just a subset of your wellbeing.
The quest for a better night’s sleep is somewhat less scientific, and apps vary wildly in the approach they take. Sleep Cycle claims to track and evaluate your sleep patterns by analysing your sounds and movements and generating graphs which are a visual representation of your sleep patterns. It also claims to be able to wake you at an optimal time to avoid drowsiness. The basic version is free, so if it doesn’t work for you, you’ve lost nothing.
In contrast, an app called Relax and Sleep Well, created by a hypnotherapist, includes 80 or so recordings used in meditation, though you have to pay for most of them. If you position your phone or tablet appropriately, you can hear the sound panning from ear to ear, which is said to be relaxing in itself.
A great many other apps will generate white noise such as wind, raindrops or light traffic, which some find helpful. You can set them to tail off after an hour or two, or keep you company through the night – and as with all these apps, you can delete them in a fortnight when you decide to put the resolution on hold for another 12 months.