Getting healthy is all about your habits, and smartphones are amazing habit-forming devices. Here are the best apps for taking advantage of that.
Invisible habits run your life.
Whether the first things you do when you get up in the morning are run and make yourself scrambled eggs or snooze the alarm and eat sugary cereal, those are habits. (Ditto healthy snacking, sleeping regularly, and remembering to call your mom once in a while.) And because habits by their nature tend toward inertia, changing them or developing new ones are hard.
Fortunately, many of us carry finely-tuned habit-forming devices in our pockets all day: our smartphones. The best habit apps either prompt you to do something — helping you form a new habit — or help you modify and improve your existing ones.
Here are the best apps for healthy habits.
Runkeeper, as I've written before, is more than just a great app for tracking your runs. It threads the whole experience of running through the habit-forming cues and rewards of a mobile game. It also lets you keep a digital diary of all the measurable and un-quantifiable factors that impacted each run, letting you get an idea over time of what's been helping an hurting. After some time with this app, you'll gain more than data on how well you've run — you'll develop a running craving.
Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal
Tracking what you actually eat in a day or week can be a crucial tool toward developing nutritious eating habits. But a lot of nutrition apps out there push you toward particular dietary plans with marginal-to-no grounding in hard science. So rather than helping you eat more healthfully, they shift you toward no-carb or no-fat diets.
MyFitnessPal, conversely, is fairly goal-agnostic. It just tracks what you're eating in a clean, simple-to-use format that allows you to set your own targets (on your own or with the help of a nutritionist) and then to know if you've met them.
Another one of the hardest parts of sticking to a healthy eating plan can be actually buying the right food in the first place. ShopWell helps you do that. And, like MyFitnessPal, it's goal-agnostic. Just tell the app how you're trying to live your life and it'll help you get there.
Sleep Better with Runtastic
There are a lot of sleep apps out there that do basically the same thing: attempt to track your sleep with their accelerometers and/or microphones and use science (and pseudoscience) to influence how you rest. This one stands out though because, like the Runkeeper running app, it actually encourages you to record the outside factors that impinge on your sleep, so you build a complete picture of your sleep habits over time.
The thing about health is that it's highly personal. Sure, there are some things like better sleep or meditation that could probably make anyone healthier. But others are specific like Don't eat the sugary granola bars in the basket at work, Take the stairs, or Skip the beers at happy hour this weekend.
Habitbull is the most popular generic habit tracker for all those healthy behaviors you're trying to adopt. It turns keeping up with healthy habits into a game, with little digital incentives not to break them, and lots of juicy analytics.