Like so many people, I deal with anxiety and depression, and taking care of my mental health is not always easy. Some days are worse than others, but every day I need to carve out a bit of time to practice mindfulness, and my Apple Watch SE has been helping me a lot lately.
Earlier this year, I decided to start seeing a therapist and really get serious about working on my mental health. They encouraged me to explore ways to use the tools I had to aid me in my mental health journey. My Apple Watch was the first thing that came to mind. While you can't quite track your mental health on Apple Watch, that doesn't mean that there aren't features that can help you with your anxiety. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health, and what works for me may not work for you, but here are just a couple of things I have found helpful lately. Plus, I also have some opinions on what watchOS 8 can do for mental health to make the best Apple Watch even better.
I am not a mental health professional in any capacity, and this article is not to be taken as mental health advice. If you feel like you need help with your mental health, please seek professional consultation.
Mental Health on Apple Watch: Breathe
You know how your Apple Watch will bug you sometimes and tell you to breathe? How many times have you ignored that message? I did all the time. But now when I get that message, I let my Apple Watch guide me through a short breathing exercise.
This helps me slow down and focus on the present instead of letting my anxiety take my mind on a nightmarish roller coaster ride.
Deep breathing is one of the easiest tools you can use to lower your body's stress levels. In layman's terms, when you breathe deeply and slowly, it sends a message to your brain that everything is OK, and the brain doesn't need to release epinephrine (adrenaline) to fuel your fight or flight response. In other words, it helps relax you.
You can learn how to use breath on your Apple Watch just by letting your Apple Watch guide you. Next time your Apple Watch bugs you to breathe, give it a chance and it may help you out.
Mental Health on Apple Watch: Time to Walk
Yet another tool I use to help with my mental health on Apple Watch is Time to Walk. Time to Walk is a feature of Apple Fitness+ that allows access to audio content from "influential and interest people" who share stories, photos, and music. It's much like throwing on a podcast, but with the specific purpose of going for a walk to help complete your Activity rings.
When this feature first came out, I thought it was lame. I listen to many podcasts and music when I walk, so why would I want to listen to some random celebrity or notable person talk? Well, in short, I have found it keeps me in the moment a lot better. Let me explain.
When I turn on a podcast or listen to music, it's straightforward for my mind to wander. When my mind wanders, it can often lead to many negative thoughts and can amp up my anxiety a lot. Sometimes that happens to turn my afternoon walk into a less-than-pleasant experience, but Time to Walk keeps my mind engaged. I find the stories interesting, and the tone is typically very calming. Plus, your Apple Watch will notify you to look at pictures or other things on the screen periodically, which prevents my mind from wandering too far.
The great thing is learning how to use Time to Walk takes no time because it works just like listening to a podcast or music on your Apple Watch. You pretty much press play and go!
I want watchOS 8 to bring more mental health features
When I think about the Apple Watch's future, I believe mental health monitoring and tracking should be a big part of the conversation. If this past year has taught us anything, it's that we all could use a little more support and tools at our disposal for when times get tough. Plus, other trackers are getting a head start on Apple Watch in this area.
For example, our good friends at Android Central did a great Fitbit Sense review, which looks at the mental health features that Fitbit included. It's new, a little choppy, and perhaps not the most elegant way to track stress, but at least it's a step in the right direction.
Apple already has the perfect platform in watchOS to add useful and meaningful features for monitoring your mental health on Apple Watch. Much like watchOS 7 finally added Sleep tracking, I hope watchOS 8 adds stress-tracking and monitoring features.
You don't even have to have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, like I do, to appreciate these features if they come to Apple Watch. Everyone gets stressed out, and it's been proven that stress can have dire ramifications on your physical health. Everyone should be mindful of their stress levels and learn coping mechanisms to deal with stress and anxiety when it becomes heightened.
Apple Watch could save even more lives
Apple has consistently been in the news for saving people's lives. Whether it's the Fall Detection feature sending out an SOS, or helping people see irregular patterns in their heartbeats and seeking the medical attention they need to address those. The Apple Watch is one of Apple's most successful and most important devices because it saves lives. And, if watchOS 8 takes mental health more seriously, it can save even more.