5 apps to gamify your wellbeing

Blog by Geoff West

The festive period is over and there’s definitely no avoiding it… the new year, new me brigade are out in full force! As I’m sure you’re aware, the advent of social media has spawned countless ‘influencers’ telling you to be super productive and moving at 100mph all year round. While we value wellbeing and productivity, we also fully appreciate that many of us need a helping hand with these things.

This is where gamification comes in. “What in the millenial is that?” I hear you cry! Well, this is an engagement technique that many companies have started adopting by adding game mechanics to achieve goals. This could be something as simple as a leaderboard for how many days you stick at a habit, to earning virtual achievements or rewards for performing every day tasks. So without further ado, here are our top 5 free apps to gamify your wellbeing.

Elevate – Daily brain training

I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying, “healthy body, healthy mind”, well this works both ways. Keeping your mind active and improving your cognitive functions is a great addition to anyones morning routine. Elevate has an intuitive UI and great mix of brain training exercises for your daily consumption. When you first download the app, you will be asked to create a profile and run a few initial tests. This will then show you any areas you may want to focus on, such as writing, speaking, and memory – then offering you 3 daily games that can take no more than 8-12 minutes to complete.

Like many of these apps on this list, Elevate has a Premium version which offers 2 more exercises to your daily program, unlimited access to all of the games and additional tracking. While this may be worth it for some, I personally find the 3 games enough to kickstart my day with a short and simple sense of accomplishment.

Sweatcoin – Earn while you walk

So you’ve started off your day with some mental gymnastics, rolled out of bed and the kettle is on. How about a walk to bask in some Vitamin D – or rain if you’re in the UK! Sweatcoin is a very simple app that gives you small monetary value to something the vast majority of us do every day. Once downloaded, it simply uses your phones built-in pedometer to track how many steps you take and converts them into the coveted ‘Sweatcoins’. These can be used to redeem rewards and prizes within their marketplace, which range from physical products, exclusive discounts and gift cards for your favourite shops. These won’t be something you gain in a matter of days however, as better items will require tens of thousands of steps. The marketplace regularly refreshes with new items and they even hold competitions and giveaways, with the entry point being a handful of coins you have earned.

Again, there are Premium tiers to the app which allow you early access to some marketplace prizes and a better conversion rate for your steps – but this is more of an app you can leave and let tick over while you go about your day to day life.

Pikmin Bloom – Flower powered walks

Cast your minds back to the simpler times of 2016. It’s the summer, the weathers somewhat warm and Pokémon Go has swept the globe. Every day you would see people hitting the streets to hatch their eggs, narrowly dodging lamp posts and walking into oncoming traffic for a chance to catch a Pikachu. While that craze has somewhat died down, the developers Niantic went on to create a new game – Pikmin Bloom, which capitalises on the walking elements of their previous title.

The premise is simple. Create an avatar, then grow an army of Pikmin – which are little plant-like creatures. Think of it like a large scale tamagotchi, but it’s powered by steps. They give you both daily and weekly challenges to tackle by yourself, or even in a group with friends. The only interactions you will be doing is feeding your Pikmin to obtain ‘petals’, which will leave a trail of flowers behind your avatar while you walk, boosting the gains you get per step.

Most of the in-app purchases are cosmetic items for your character or extra boosts to skip step counts (which defeats the whole point!), however some of these can be obtained just by playing – albeit very slowly! This is something that doesn’t require much of your time, simply carry on your daily activities and check it quickly while you wind down.

Flora – Procrastination be green

Now you may have noticed there’s been particular focus on not adding extra hours onto your daily screen time. There have been multiple studies linking excessive screen time with anxiety and depression, especially with young people. While this can also be due to deeper societal issues, if you struggle to put your phone down then Flora could be the app for you.

This is another simple app that allows you to set focus timers. The catch is you must plant a tree which only grows once the timer ends. However, if you use your phone during your focus period, the tree will die. It’s a strange concept, but the thought of killing a small, sprouting, digital tree could be just enough to keep you on task… so much so, that I used it while writing this blog!

There are other elements to the app such as the ‘Grand Tour’, where you will grow trees specific to a region by meeting certain time thresholds. Once you’ve crossed this, you will move onto a new part of the world and unlock new trees to plant. There is also a feature which allows you to wager your own money on a particular focus timer. This may sound extreme but should you fail, the app will automatically charge you the amount you set to charities in the real world who plant trees. As of writing, the app has helped plant over 84,000 real trees around the world, so it’s a great initiative as well as helping the environment!

Zombies, Run! – The running dead?

The final app on the list is one that requires some imagination! Zombies, Run acts like a audiobook which unlocks more chapters the more you run. You are Runner #5 in the zombie apocalypse and you need to run around the virtual town scavenging supplies while under the pursuit of zombies. If this sounds daunting, you can choose the speed you would like to move at so there is a walking option should you not be able to run.

There is lots to this app, including plenty of ‘Missions’ which can be tweaked to suit your ability. Small base building elements using the supplies you collect during each run which give you bonus content and full integration with your usual music app – so you can use streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music, while you move between story beats. This app is definitely for a certain type of person, but if you think being chased by virtual zombies will keep you motivated then it’s definitely worth a go!

Special mentions

Duolingo – Pick up a new language through daily bitesized lessons. Keep your streak alive, gain a new skill and get the words ‘Hi, it’s Duo!’ ingrained into your psyche thanks to their pushy, owl mascot.

Try Dry – If you’ve been struggling with Dry January this year, then Try Dry could definitely help you stick to it. This app gives you a visual representation of your current streak, lets you set your own goals and also shows you how much money you will be saving – which can be a real eye opener!

Fitness RPG – Think Final Fantasy meets Candy Crush, but everything you do is powered by steps and movement. Level up your characters and gear, then fight through a quest path with turn based battles. Simple, but quite addicting and there’s a hideous amount of virtual currencies to avoid!

Did we miss any of your favourite wellbeing apps? Let us know on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Alternatively, take a look at our mental wellbeing section for more resources and techniques to keep on top of yourself this year.