Best Self-Care Apps
To nail down the best self-care apps, we put dozens to the test.
Our list includes free apps, paid apps with a free trial, and paid apps that are 110% worth the investment.
These are the top 16 best self-care apps to improve your physical, emotional, and mental health in 2021.
the best self-care apps for 2021
While most of us intend and actively want to practice self-care, it still seems like it’s one of those things that gets put last on our list.
Maybe it’s because it sometimes seems indulgent or frivolous, but we’re here to tell you that self-care is incredibly important for your overall health and stress management.
Luckily, there are phenomenal self-care apps that make it easy and fun to take part in self-care activities… and some of these apps even pay you to do so!
We looked high and low and tested dozens of apps to give you our round-up of the top self-care apps out there in 2021.
Why Should You Practice Self-Care?
While we all know that taking time to care for our personal health is important, you may be surprised to learn these stats from a study run by Everyday Health:
- One-third of people surveyed have gone to the doctor for a stress-related issue
- The most common stressor is finance, with 52% of respondents saying that financial issues regularly stress them out. The second spot goes to jobs and careers (35%)
- Finally and most concerningly, nearly half of both men and women (47%) say that their response to stress is taking it out on themselves.
The good news is, you are in control of how much certain stress affects you.
Self-care activities are a proven method to relieve stress and rejuvenate your overall health. Things like taking a walk, spending time on a hobby, and meditation all count as methods of self-care.
Generally, there are thought to be eight areas of self-care. So, what are the 8 areas of self-care?
While it seems like a wide range, it’s important to be aware of how connected all of these areas are to your well-being and to check in with yourself often.
Why Should You Use a Self-Care App?
Luckily, with the self-care trend on the ups, more and more apps are available to help you cover all of these areas.
Some of these self-care apps for mental health can help with all of them at once!
So while some of us may feel technology dug us into this hole in the first place — from the fast-paced world to connecting with friends only online — utilize technology to take you back out of it.
The truth is, our phones are with us all the time, so what better way to engage with self-care than through an app?
Each of these apps has functions to preset reminders or to automatically track your heart rate or steps utilizing other wearables you might have like the Apple Watch or a FitBit.
So read on for the best self-care apps in 2021. These are your best options to help build a healthy routine and strengthen your mental health.
The Best Self-care apps 2021
Here’s your comprehensive guide to the best self-care apps in 2021:
Best Self-Care App Overall
The Fabulous app is as fabulous as its name proclaims.
Fabulous is #6 on Apple’s app store for health and fitness, and it deserves the spot.
This app focuses on bringing you a healthier and happier life, with fun animations, easy-to-achieve health goals to get the momentum going, and a customized experience for your best self-cared you.
Right away, you get wrapped into Fabulous’s videos and quizzes that guide you towards the habits that will make you healthier.
While some apps “gamify” health, Fabulous is like becoming part of the most delightful Pixar movie.
Built by behavioral scientists, Fabulous takes a holistic approach to health, covering both physical and mental health.
The goal is to create routines, and the app shares fun tidbits that motivate and inspire, like “Michelle Obama has a morning routine of waking up at 4:30 AM to exercise!”
Do you ever wonder, “What are some self-care activities I should be doing?” You don’t have to anymore because this app covers it all and creates the best plan tailored to your needs.
Fabulous really is the best of the best. Start your free 7-day trial and then progress to $39.99 a year.
Best Self-Care App for Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health
Built by clinical psychologists, MindDoc is your daily emotional check-in.
The free app will ask how you’re feeling and give daily insights to uplift and give perspective. The app logs your feeling in a calendar, letting you visually see how your mood trends throughout the month and year.
The best part of the MindDoc app is that they offer a full library of video lessons and exercises covering topics like “mindfulness” and “understanding depression.”
Many of these courses are free, with others exclusively for premium subscribers at $8.33/month.
Finally, MindDoc works with the popular app BetterHelp which connects you with real-life licensed therapists through either scheduled calls or messaging.
These therapists on BetterHelp are geared towards individuals, couples, and teenagers.
Overall, the MindDoc app is for everyone to stop and think about their emotional well-being each day.
Mental health is incredibly important for everyone and this app gives a rare opportunity to rate yourself and see if there’s room for improvement. This is the best mental health app out there.
MindDoc is also a playful and less-intense option for those who suffer from depression, anxiety, insomnia, and eating disorders to kickstart them on their wellness journey.
Best Self-Care Apps That Earn You Money
Winner: Achievement App
Achievement is a free app that you can sync with your Apple Health, Apple Watch, FitBit, Garmin, MapMyRun, Strava, and more! We think this is the best free self-care app because it gets you fit physically and financially.
As you perform healthy actions throughout the day (walking, tracking heart rate, exercising, and so forth) you earn up to 80 daily points. For every 10,000 points you earn, you get paid $10 via Paypal or donate it to charity.
To speed up the process (as it would take a few months to earn the $10), there are occasional medical studies you can join to earn more points.
I’ve started using the app and it’s awesome to “gamify” and win real cash as I strive to beat my health goals anyways.
To get started, you answer a few short quizzes about your health goals and history, and then I simply sync my Apple Watch and watch the points roll in. Very neat concept (as long as you’re not squeamish with data-sharing.)
Feel free to sign up as my “referred” friend and we will both earn a bonus of 100 points. Pretty cool!
A highly-rated app at 168k reviews with 4.5 stars, Sweatcoin is another app that pays you to get your steps in.
You earn 0.95 sweatcoins (a cryptocurrency) for every 1,000 steps taken, capped at 5 sweatcoins a day with a free account (~$0.25 a day.)
So, like Achievement, this is money for the long run, as you start cashing in for fitness gear, cash, and gift cards.
While arguably more popular than Achievement, we gave it the runner-up status because you’re earning potential is limited to walking.
Also, you’re supposed to have the app running on your phone whenever you walk. However, if you have a synced FitBit or Apple Watch, then you’re all set.
Another con is that Sweatcoin heavily pushes the gift cards instead of the cold, hard cash that Achievement does. Still, it’s a very good self-care app.
Like Achievement, you can also donate your earnings to charity! Feel free to join with our 5 Sweatcoin referral bonus.
Best Self-Care Apps for Sleep
We have been Pillow users for years (Alex with a free account and Ryan with a paid account of $39.99/year).
While we sometimes question the accuracy, it’s been a mainstay for us and our primary way of tracking our sleep.
What we like about the Pillow sleep app is that it connects with our Apple watch (helpful, although not necessary) and tracks our time asleep.
Plus, it breaks down our night’s rest in a helpful graph showing when we were in REM, light sleep, deep sleep, or awake.
This is incredibly helpful because Ryan learned that most of his REM cycles happen in the morning while Alex’s happen in the first half of the night.
Now, Alex tries to be especially quiet while waking up first in the morning, knowing that Ryan has his best REM opportunities.
The difference between the free version and the premium is the ability to listen to any recorded audio, and also to see charts summarizing your full sleep history.
The free version was very useful during our 3-day fast experiment. But, for our longer 2-month experiment on caffeine withdrawal and sleep, it was helpful that Ryan could export historical data and see the graphs showing sleep quality changes over time.
Outside of sleeping in an MRI machine, Pillow is the most accurate and convenient sleep tracking app we’ve found.
Runner-up: Sleep ++
Sleep++ is often rated as the best overall sleep app for free, but we still prefer Pillow’s free version over Sleep++ because it seems a tad more accurate.
However, there are benefits because unlike the free version of the Pillow app, Sleep++ graphs out all of your nights of sleep so it’s easier to compare how you sleep on an average Wednesday vs. Friday.
If you have an Apple Watch, you can automatically capture your night’s sleep (sorry, FitBits aren’t compatible). Or else, you’ll have to manually hit “record” every night and every morning when you wake up.
This isn’t very easy for most as we don’t recommend sleeping with the phone in your room, which is why this app is ranked as the runner-up in our books, especially if you have an Apple Watch.
Best Self-Care Apps for Fitness
Winner: Beachbody On Demand
Where can you watch fitness videos, log and track your workout calendar, access nutrition programs with recipes, and interact with a free fitness group for accountability all in one place?
The Beachbody On Demand app. Even with a free account, you have access to these options (although the workouts are limited to just sample workouts and one 7-day beginner program).
You can also start a free (you’ll need to enter your credit card information) 14-day trial of Beachbody On Demand where you’ll get unlimited access.
We’ve made it no secret that we love following Beachbody’s workouts and nutrition tools. Their app works great and you can download workouts for offline use.
Did we mention there is a new meditation and bedtime stretch series on Beachbody?
Best Self-Care Apps for Nutrition
MyFitnessPal has the best database and tracking system for counting calories and food journaling.
Plus, as you log your food, the app lets you know how much fiber, protein, and nutrients you received that day.
Plus, this free app also guides you in making diet recommendations and keeps you to your goals. While we no longer used the paid subscription, it’s very useful if you are setting and tracking macronutrient goals.
We both love using MyFitnessPal occasionally, but it’s a lot of work to keep journaling your food meal after meal. So, we tend to use the app more as a “top-up” once in a while to make sure we’re on track with our calories.
We always say, “Trying to lose weight without knowing your calories is like trying to train for a race without knowing the distance.”
If you don’t have a good grasp on your calories, the guidance in our weight loss challenge will help you.
Best Self-Care Apps for Relationships
Relish is our favorite relationship app, and we have tried dozens.
Not only is Relish a beautiful app with dynamic graphics and quizzes, but you’re also assigned a real-life coach or relationship therapist, depending on your needs.
This was the first time we have had access to a therapist and it’s been so interesting to talk about our relationship with them.
The coach then customizes a lesson plan for you — all of which are heavily based on science which we love — and you play on Relish like a game from there.
You and your partner pay for one account (7-day free trial and then $99 for the year), but you each have access to your own portal on your individual phones.
Also, we have different therapists as well, so it’s incredibly personalized. Our accounts are linked and we can share messages and send each other our favorite lessons.
Remember, you should start relationship coaching while the relationship is good, not bad! Give Relish a try, it’s awesome.
Runner-up: Love Nudge
The Love Nudge relationship app is brought to us by the folks who created The 5 Love Languages. In our experience, this is the best free self-care app.
It’s one of the few completely free self-care apps and you link up with your partner’s phone. From there, you can take the 5 Love Languages quiz (a must for every couple) and send each other messages.
Additionally, the app helps you set goals and gives ideas on things to do that speak most to your partner’s love language.
It will send you a reminder with specific actions (“give your partner a back rub”) to make sure you’re being the best partner you can be.
Best Self-Care Apps for Meditation
We have tried many meditation apps, from the more popular Calm to Headspace, but Balance is our personal favorite.
The guided meditations come customized as you take quizzes sharing how you think you’ve done so far and what needs improvement.
As two people who haven’t done much meditation before, we found the cadence, support, and quality exceptional. Listening to and meditating with Balance became a nightly ritual for us and one we made the 10-minutes time for.
We 100% recommend the Balance app for all!
Balance is currently offering a free 1-year trial (yes, 365 days!) After that, the price is $70 a year. It’s so worth it!
Best Self-Care Apps for Habits and Productivity
The Strides app is the no-fuss habit tracking app we’ve all been looking for. It’s the best app for self-care and productivity, hands-down.
Perfect for the data-minded like us, Strides show clear graphs on how your day’s goals are going… and how far you still have to go. You can even export your data (with the premium subscription.)
Plus, you can see how well you’ve done in the past month to create streaks and can set reminders to pop up on your phone reminding you to get moving!
Strides offers a free version that allows you to track 3 habits, but we recommend springing for the premium version which gives you unlimited tracking.
Plus, the premium version calculates and shares trends, calendars, and rankings. For us, it’s worth $4.99 a month.
Runner-up: Productive – Habit Tracker
At 4.6 stars and 76k reviews, Productive is the most popular app on the app store for productivity.
The Productive App is designed to set goals, build routine and habit through setting reminders and visual calendars, and even creating challenges to meet your goals. It’s like a life coach in your pocket.
Productive has a free 7-day trial or else it is $30 for the year.
What’s fun is that you start with a quiz, with the app making recommendations on goals from procrastination to drinking more water. So, you don’t even have to go into it with goals in mind!
I chose to start meditating for 10 minutes a day and it built in my goals automatically. What’s cool is that you can customize the goals very specifically, like reading once a week to limiting caffeine.
Overall, Productive is a beautiful app that offers some coaching and guidance by recommending challenges like skipping alcohol or sugar for a week.
Best Self-Care Apps for Personal Development
Our favorite app/streaming service for personal development continues to be MasterClass.
The quality of teaching is unsurpassed as only celebrities and world-renowned experts are recruited, and there are plenty of self-care topics discussed, including:
- Self-Expression and Authenticity with RuPaul
- The Science of Better Sleep with Matthew Walker
- Creativity and Leadership with Anna Wintour
- Yoga Foundations with Donna Farhi
- Mindfulness and Meditation with Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Fitness and Wellness Fundamentals with Joe Holder
- Sex and Communication with Emily Morse
- Gardening with Ron Finley
… and more!
The app itself allows for lessons to be downloaded for offline viewing, and access to workbooks if you want to take the course more seriously.
For us, we love it because it watches like Netflix except is far more enriching. To learn more, read our full review, “Is MasterClass Worth It?“
The cost of an Annual MasterClass Membership is $214.20 or $17.85/month billed annually. Sometimes, they have a 2-for-1 offer.
Best Self-Care Apps for Gratitude
Jour starts off with prompts that help track your mood, mental health, and anything else that’s going on.
The app continues to ask questions until you’ve written a few short journal entries, like “what do you appreciate about your relationship?” or “what do you plan to accomplish this week?”
Then, daily “breakthroughs” are shared with a bit of science on wellness and mindfulness to get you in a healthy and uplifted mindset.
Don’t think you can journal every night? With every prompt, there are a few suggestions to get you started. For “what do you plan to accomplish this week?” some pre-written suggestions were a click away, including “cook more” and “read.”
The Jour gratitude journal app is like a trainer with beautiful graphics and soothing questions. Plus, you’ll be able to track your mood changes as you work towards better wellness.
There are additional capabilities like breathing techniques (the app will ask you to inhale for 4 seconds, and then show you a screen to exhale) as well as stories on “beating burnout” and ideas to wind down your day.
It’s pretty impressive and fun.
Best Self-Care Apps for Women’s Health
Coming in at an impressive #3 for Health & Fitness on the App store is Flo.
Flo is a women’s health app. It is a period tracker and calendar, tracking your cycle and sharing graphs that you can easily share with your gynecologist.
Set your goals to track cycle, get pregnant, or track pregnancy.
Alex has used this app for a long time and loves the quizzes, videos, and chats available. Additionally, the content in the app helps women focus on their mental health.
You can do everything you want with the free version but can upgrade to the premium version to watch videos created by gynecologists and doctors that cover all the questions you didn’t even know you had.
We’re Open To Recommendations
We hope a few of these self-care apps can help you improve your health, productivity, relationships, or mindset.
Feel free to share any self-help or self-care apps that you love and why. We’re always open to finding new tools or products to help us optimize our lives.
Thanks for reading, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.
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The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”
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