Positive thinking, with a little help from your phone

Written by New York Times | Updated: Oct 20 2014, 06:54am hrs
At dinner with friends recently the conversation turned to things that were stressing us out. Yes, it was one of those moody evenings. But it ended up being upbeat because someone asked the inevitable I wonder if theres an app for that question. And it turns out there are lots of apps to help you think positively or aim at happiness, and we all had fun

examining them on our phones.

Happify is perhaps the most sophisticated positive vibes app available now. The idea of this free iOS app is to train you into thinking positively and feeling happy by engaging you in various tracks with different goals like improving your confidence or seeing new possibilities. By playing through games and activities for a few minutes each day, the aim is to ultimately get into the habit of thinking positively.

Happify, which claims its technique is based on science, starts by asking you some thought-provoking questions about your life and your goals in using the app. Then it recommends some tracks for you, and within a few taps youve begun.

Each track contains bite-size quizzes, games and activities that guide you to seeing more positive aspects of your daily life. For example, one may ask you to list things youre grateful for at home, another will get you to notice positive words in a game where you lose points by clicking on negative words.

The app also regularly helps you

assess your happiness level, that way pointing out how you can feel more positive merely by changing your habits. Theres also a community page in the app where you can see inspirational comments by other users and even upload your ownthough you dont have to use this page. The app is fun and definitely draws my attention to the happier side of life. Perhaps Happifys only drawback is that while its free to download and use, access to its full range of activities costs $13 a month or $70 a year. Its also only for iOS devices.

Other apps use a different route to developing positive thinking habits: repeated affirmation. These apps simply expose you repeatedly to motivational ideas, quotes and suggestions. On iOS, Positive Thinking by TapCoder.com is a relatively simple attempt at this kind of app. It uses colourful imagery and very simple controls, and has a list of motivational quotes and suggestions everything from do sports to stop thinking ... sit there relaxed. The app can even pop a motivational notification on your screen automatically at certain times if you choose. Its extremely basic, and theres not a huge amount of content but you may find it has some good ideas and it is free.

On Android the app Positive Thinking by Juniper Islet has a very similar goal, but offers extras like being able to add your own motivational quotes to its archive and to push quotes onto an

Android widget so you can read them without opening the app. Its also free.

Another approach to thinking positively is to track your moods so you can either notice what makes you feel glum or simply be more aware of when you think positively. The app iMoodJournal on iOS, which costs $2, is sophisticated and has a great-looking, easy-to-use interface. Through a suite of menus and text-entry controls you can make a diary-style note in the app of when youre feeling positive (or not!), and also add a photo or a selfie.

When youve accumulated enough entries, the app presents some analytics in the form of graphs that show your positivity over time. This could help you plan strategies to be more positive. The T2 Mood Tracker app is a rough equivalent on Android, and has a few neat extras like letting you enter your own parameters to measure on a sliding scale so you could add very specific sensations or events that are meaningful to your emotional state. Its free, and is also available for

iOS devices.

If you prefer a more meditative approach to positive thinking, check out Smiling Mind, a free iOS and Android app. You enter data on how youre feeling, using a number of slide controls that ask if youre feeling stormy or calm, for example. Then you listen to a meditation-like voice track that talks you through different programmes.

Depending on the goal of the programme, like breathing control or body awareness, each track asks you to think about your habits in different ways. Meditation is a very personal experience, and your mileage may vary, but I found the app fascinating and relaxing.

Reflect+ is a new special effects app for iOS devices that quickly transforms ordinary snaps into magical images by adding a fake reflection effect. Its as if the subject of the original photo were at the edge of a lake or ocean, or even a sheet of ice or metal. Fun, and just $2.