iPhone app teaches mindfulness, effects change

I first learned about the Awareness iPhone App through a link somebody shared on Facebook. Ronit Herzfeld wrote a lovely article about how a lack of emotional awareness is connected to divisive political thinking  and how increased awareness can change us in fundamental ways and hence change the world.  It was the last paragraph of the article, which was in the Huffington Post, that she pitched the iPhone app which she had just pre-sold to me by writing the piece.

I’ve been using the app for a few weeks now. It sends you alerts 5 times a day, heralded by your choice of about 5 sounds. The text on the alert tells you the name of the app, AWARENESS, and asks “what are you feeling right now?”

You can then either snooze the alert or record your feelings from a choice of a menu and sub-menu. A graphic that vaguely relates to the feeling flashes across the screen and you are directed to go deeper into the feeling. You’re reminded by soothing white text that feelings pass, and then you’re on to a screen where you can record what you are doing from a list of categories and sub-categories. You can add new activities, but not new feelings.

The last little part of the Awareness user experience is some sort of relevant quote by anyone from the Buddha to Anais Nin.

Part of the app takes your data and creates interesting pie charts and graphs, so you can see the percentage of passionate versus happy versus angry, etc. feelings as pie slices. There are monthly and weekly reports, too.

After using the app a few weeks I am more apt to recognize how I am feeling at different moments in the day that are not when the alert is going off. Increased mindfulness always results in giving me the experience of having more choices for my behavior in the moment.

Also telling about the app is I’m still using it after two weeks, although not as faithfully as when I started. I don’t record the feelings every time the alert is going off, but I do enough to make the pie charts useful. My husband bought the app as well, and says that although he’s no longer logging feelings, he’s more aware of them and checks in with himself during the day.

A friend to whom I introduced the app told me “I have been using it for two weeks, and I’m noticing just how much I catch myself being happy.” That’s a powerful testament to the power of attention. sometimes when our lives are really stressful and full of difficult things to deal with, we color our whole experience as stressful or sad, and forget that we are having thousands of little moments of every day when our experience is not that of stress, but of passion, excitement, joy, humor. The app caught me eating chocolate the other day and hence I recorded an unexpected moment of unadulterated ecstasy. (Maybe if it had caught me a few moments past that I’d have recorded a fleeting moment of guilt. Either way, the AWARENESS app would have reminded me: “emotions pass”.)

So, definitely worth the 3 bucks I paid for it. The little movies are pretty, the sounds are nice, and it’s not a huge committment. The user interface is a little clunky and can be unintuitive: I am not sure why certain emotions exist in certain categories, and why certain activities are in certain categories, and I wish I didn’t have to go through so many menus to log feelings and activities. It can seem to take a long time to watch some of the little movies and quotes. (Is that me catching myself feeling “impatient”?) Lots of room to expand and improve in future fixes and versions of the app.

All in all, I found it to be a nice periodic and structured experience for mindfulness practice that I can keep up with.

Find out more about Ronit Herzfeld’s project here.

Do you want me to review your wellness iPhone app? Drop me a line or a comment and I’ll be glad to.

About Lia Salciccia Prusha

therapist and blogger
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