Using Your Phone to Improve Your Health

It's a camera, a GPS system, and a Twitter updater. And now more and more people are changing their lives by turning their cell phones into personal health management systems, with promising results—in fact, a Cochrane review found that using an app that sends encouraging text-message reminders will up your chance of kicking a bad habit for good.

What else can your phone help you do?

  • Create healthy habits. The My Healthy Habits app aims to incorporate healthy behaviors (like eating a good breakfast or being more active) in your routine and make them stick. You can even design your own unique habit with the customizable option.
  • Exercise more. GymPact is a unique downloadable program that pays you cash for going to the gym. The catch? If you don't go, it charges you money.
  • Have a good night's rest. The Sleep Cycle alarm clock actually monitors your sleep patterns and gently wakes you up during your lightest sleep cycle, helping you to feel refreshed first thing in the morning. You can also track your sleep each night to find the right amount for you.
  • Become more aware of your moods. Struggling with depression, anxiety, or irritability? MyMoodTracker keeps track of your shifting moods, as well as factors that may affect the way you feel, such as medications, sleep, and physical activity. The archived logs help you make mindful connections between what's going on in your life and how you feel.
  • Eat more healthy foods. If you want to have a more wholesome diet but keep falling into the same unhealthy patterns, The Eatery app can help you figure out how to make a change that works for you. It's simple: you snap a picture of your food, and the app gives you fast feedback about what you've chosen to eat, as well as big-picture advice about your own dietary strengths and weaknesses.
  • Stick to your goals. Give yourself a better shot at reaching your goals by creating a commitment contract at stickK. While this program is browser-based (you'll probably want to use your tablet or computer, rather than your phone), its strength lies in the built-in social network it provides. According to the program's founders, research has shown that people who make a public commitment or put dollars on the line have a better chance of sticking with their goals.