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From meditation to mood tracking, we found some of the best apps to help you manage your depression symptoms.

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Getty Images/AleksandarNakic

Living with depression and feeling hopeless or unable to enjoy things that used to bring you joy can be challenging. But you’re not alone. Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions worldwide.

In 2017, approximately 17.3 million U.S. adults had at least one major episode of depression. That’s slightly over 7% of the adult population.

But 2020 and 2021 aren’t exactly “normal” years. Due to COVID-19, depression symptoms are now more than three times higher than they were pre-pandemic. The biggest increase came from individuals with less social and economic resources.

While apps to combat depression won’t replace medication or therapy, they may help decrease your stress and alleviate some of your depression symptoms, according to research from 2017.

We know that when you’re experiencing symptoms of depression and are trying to find relief, you don’t necessarily want to wade through tons of apps to find the best one. So, we’ve rounded up our favorites from skills-based assistance to sleep stories and even games.

To find the right apps, we reviewed numerous contenders, looking at the following:

  • Rating. We focused on apps with the highest overall ratings from thousands of users.
  • User reviews. We looked closely at what users thought about the app.
  • Operating system. All the apps are available for both Android and iOS.
  • Price. All apps on our list offer free options.

Best app for meditation

Headspace

Price: Free for basic services; $12.99 per month or $69.99 per year for premium. Student and family plans are available.

Founded by a former Brit turned Buddhist monk turned event planner, Headspace has been around since 2010. With the goal of providing people guided meditations anytime, anywhere, Headspace now also includes animations, articles, and videos.

What we like

  • Meditations vary in length.
  • Meditations are available for a large variety of experiences and situations.
  • You can often select different guide levels (guided, semi-guided, unguided) and voices (e.g., male vs. female).

What to look out for

  • If you don’t pay for an upgrade, you’re stuck listening to the same few meditations over and over again.

Best for sleep

Calm

Price: Free for some features; $14.99 per month, $69.99 per year, or $399.00 for a one-time, lifetime purchase for premium.

Regularly recognized as one of the best apps for sleep, Calm’s sleep stories feature some well-known voices like Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, Ariana Grande, and Kate Winslet. Like the celebrities, there’s a wide range of story styles to choose from, including fairy tales and ASMR. There are even nap sessions available if you need to shut your eyes for just a few minutes midday.

What we like

  • The Calm app is updated regularly so you won’t get bored listening to the same stories over and over again.
  • There are sleep stories designed specifically for children.
  • There are “Gently Back to Sleep” options for when you wake up in the middle of the night.

What to look out for

  • The sleep stories can be too long for some people.
  • Only a few of the stories are included in the free version of the app.

Best for self-guided therapy

Youper

Price: Free for basic services; $3.75 per month, $44.99 per year for an Emotional Health Plan

Created by doctors and therapists, Youper is short for “You” + “Super.” It was designed to empower people to take charge of their own mental health. Through the use of artificial intelligence technology, you can receive daily therapeutic exercise recommendations. The app relies on user data to improve their services.

What we like

  • The app asks you a series of questions to determine your mood and feelings, and what exercises would work best for you at that moment.
  • Even though it’s AI, you feel like you’re communicating with a real person who cares about you.
  • The app is built on scientific data.

What to look out for

  • If you’re not interested in tracking your mood and just want to do a skill, there’s no option to move past the mood tracker.
  • To access all the features, you need a subscription.

Best for community support

Sanvello: Anxiety and Depression

Price: Covered by some insurance plans; $8.99 per month, $53.99 per year for the Self-Care plan; $50 per month, $350 per year to include journey classes and 1:1 coaching; approximately $140 for an initial therapy appointment and $85 for the average follow-up appointments.

Sanvello is a full-service app, providing everything from goal tracking and exercises to coaching and therapy. But their community of users, which Sanvello bills as a “judgment-free, label-free space,” is where it’s at. If you need a sympathetic “ear” or some encouragement, fellow app users can chime in with words of understanding or encouragement.

What we like

  • It’s a safe space for anyone who is experiencing anxiety or depression. There’s no bullying or negativity.
  • Connecting with hundreds of others who are experiencing the same things as you can make you feel less alone.
  • Therapy sessions are more affordable than many in-person providers.

What to look out for

  • You can get blocked from posting if you talk about suicide.
  • You could be denied therapy and receive a recommendation to find a different provider, based on your responses to the initial questionnaire.

Best for AI-based therapy

Wysa

Price: AI chats are free; $11.99 per month for access to tools and a well-being coach or therapist.

Wysa and it’s AI penguin are an “almost therapy” option that gives you the right therapeutic tools and techniques at the right time. After answering several questions, the Wysa penguin will suggest:

Founded by health professionals, Wysa’s goal is to help you talk and work through your symptoms, regardless of the time of day or night.

What we like

  • No more 50-minute therapy sessions — Wysa will “listen” for as long as it takes you to work through your thoughts and feelings.
  • Many users find the Wysa penguin adorable, making it easier to talk to a bot and eliminating the fear of burdening a friend with your problems.
  • You can receive help from the Wysa penguin without paying for a premium version.

What to look out for

  • The penguin is, sadly, not real. Sometimes it can feel like you’re in a loop.
  • If you experience severe depression, the penguin isn’t a substitute for professional help.

Best for daily mood tracking

Daylio

Price: Free, $2.99 per month; $24 per year

Daylio is bullet journaling without lifting a pencil, complete with icons and emojis to match your moods. You can customize your colors, themes, and goals, just like you would in an actual bullet journal. Or, you can keep it simple and just track your mood and activities.

If you journal regularly, you’ll be able to track your mood or activities over time with monthly or annual statistics. Plus, you can create a PIN to lock the app, so anyone who has access to your phone password can’t find their way to your personal journal.

What we like

  • Daylio is an easy and simple app for basic journaling.
  • Along with choosing your colors, icons, and emojis, you can add your own notes and photos to truly customize each entry.
  • You can begin to see behavior patterns over time, which could help you recognize activities, foods, or even people triggering your symptoms.

What to look out for

  • The many statistics can feel overwhelming.
  • You can get a lot more features in the premium version, which may get frustrating or disappointing if you were looking for a free journaling tool.

Best game

SuperBetter

Price: Free

Believe it or not, you can play a game to help you overcome some of your symptoms. SuperBetter is that game.

Created by a game designer who was living with depression, SuperBetter helps you build resilience by using the psychological strengths found in gaming.

The goal is to use the virtual world to provide you with skills you need to overcome difficult situations in life. Some research indicates that SuperBetter may help reduce symptoms of depression, though researchers involved in the study were connected to the app, which may influence results.

What we like

  • The game is specifically designed to improve your mental health, with challenges that have you dealing with your real-life difficulties virtually.
  • The “battles” in the app mimic real life, such as a challenge to get up off the couch and take just one step or even get a drink of water.
  • There are specific games created for the pandemic, such as Stay at Home Scavenger Hunt where you build social connections while remaining physically distant and Stay Strong in a Pandemic that provides skills to help you through this time.

What to look out for

  • For true gamers, SuperBetter may seem too basic.

Living with depression isn’t always easy — and adding a pandemic to the mix makes it even more difficult.

Having a variety of tools available to manage your symptoms can help you get through those challenging moments or days. And, hopefully, improve your mood and overall energy.

While apps can’t replace medication and therapy, they can be helpful tools in relieving symptoms of depression.