On October 13, 2011, NBC’s Parks and Recreation characters, Donna Meagle (Retta) and Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), introduced “Treat Yo’ Self” day — a day purely dedicated to pampering yourself. Clothes? Treat Yo’ Self. Fragrances? Treat Yo’ Self. Massages, mimosas, and fine leather goods? Treat Yo’ Self!
The fictional day gained so much popularity that fans even adopted October 13th as Treat Yo’ Self Day.
While there is an element of self-care in indulging in a good retail therapy session or brunch outing, there are additional layers to treating yourself that we often overlook: like, caring for our mental, emotional, and physical selves. (We call this proactive self care.)
Though it might not sound as immediately gratifying as Donna and Tom’s way, incorporating self-compassion and care into our routines allows us to feel better, sleep better, and make better decisions in the long run.
In fact, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School, something as simple as practicing gratitude “helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
There are thousands of mobile apps out there that make self-care feel rewarding, lightweight, and fun. We’ve condensed that long list into something a little more palatable for you — with our absolute favorites, beloved by our team!
Whether you’re on a tight budget, not particularly the best at goal setting, need a little daily structure, or would like to reduce your screentime — there’s an app out there for you.
(By the way, some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which means we may receive compensation at no cost to you. Thank you!)
Start slow, be intentional, and treat yo’ self!
Virtual Hope Box
Virtual Hope Box is a free app that provides simple, immediate interventions for difficult moments. Through its “Distract Me,” “Inspire Me,” “Relax Me,” and “Coping Tools” features, users can interact with photos, sound bites, and videos of loved ones. They can also access music, relaxation exercises, and games, as well as work through coping cards equipped to help people work through tough situations.
In a randomized clinical trial, veterans who used the Virtual Hope Box reported a significantly greater ability to cope with uncomfortable emotions and thoughts than a control group, and found the app more helpful than written educational materials.
Aloe Bud is a self-care companion with simple, gentle reminders to take care of yourself (we’re also obsessed with the adorable pixelated illustrations displayed throughout the app). Through push notifications, it reminds you of daily self-care activities that you can set up yourself.
Whether you want to be reminded to drink more water, eat, or reach out to loved ones, this app is a sweet and simple way of caring for your well-being. For those unable to reach their daily self-care goals, Aloe Bud helps them focus on the smaller (but equally beneficial) victories they accomplished that day. Aloe Bud can be fully enjoyed for free, and also offer in-app purchases for additional enhancements.
Calm app is one of the leaders in the meditation app space focused on providing helpful tools for people struggling with stress and anxiety. After selecting your personal wellness goals, the app redirects you to its content — offering hundreds of meditations on anxiety, stress, sleeping, forgiveness, gratitude, and more.
Whether you need help falling asleep or a brief respite in the middle of a workday, this app provides tools to — well, you guessed it — calm the mind. App features include sleep stories (with Matthew McConaughey and P!nk, for example), relaxation and stress relief through intentional breathwork, and mindfulness programs. Calm is free to download with a 7-day free trial (subscription options include $12.99 per month or $69.99 per year).
Can playing games be a form of self-care? Yep! Lumosity is a free cognitive training app that builds fun, interactive games as a way to challenge and improve the mind. This app is designed to exercise memory, speed, flexibility, and problem-solving skills, including puzzles, memory games, logic problems, and meditation techniques.
Players can also track their progress while learning their unique strengths, weaknesses, and cognitive patterns. The app even interprets scores to offer actionable feedback and insights into the individual’s cognitive journey. If you enjoy playing games to wind down from a long day, this could be a fun self-care option for you.
“It’s not enough to build muscle and achieve aerobic fitness,” according to a Harvard Medical School analysis. “You need to think about flexibility, too.” The StretchIt app is all about improving movement and flexibility.
App features include classes (with video demonstrations) of any skill level that combine stretches from yoga, gymnastics, bodyweight training, pilates, and more. StretchIt offers a free trial with various plans starting at $20.
If you’ve Googled meditation at any point, chances are Headspace popped up in the search results. Headspace is designed to help you “relax, manage stress, find your focus, and release tension in both the mind and body,” according to its site. It provides meditations led by world-class experts and mindfulness tools — along with the cutest animations — to help guide people toward healthy habit formations.
Features include daily guided meditations, sleep sounds, fitness and tension release, as well as other courses like mindful money and eating. Subscriptions start at $12.99 per month or $69.99 per year.
A 2020 peer-reviewed study found that adult coloring helped lower anxiety levels in participants. If you find relaxation through creative projects, Colorfy — a digital coloring book app — can be a great fit for you. It offers a selection of patterns and images to choose from, or the option to upload your own sketches to color — encouraging users to spend hours lost in a meditative flow state.
Features include over 1,000 pictures to color, various brush types, offline mode capabilities, and an AR virtual gallery that lets you visualize your drawings in the real world. Once done, the app allows you to save and print it out. While Colorfy does offer free drawings to color, you have the option to purchase a subscription in to gain access to the expanded library.
Gratitude Journal, Affirmation
The Gratitude Journal, Affirmation app is a self-care tool to help you focus on your mental health. With gratitude journal prompts, affirmations, vision board features, and daily motivational content, Gratitude Journal presents you with the tools and reminders needed to gain motivation and develop a healthy self-love routine.
The app also sends daily reminders with prompts to help you build a journaling habit — even providing the option to add pictures to your journal entries, build journal streaks, and access hundreds of helpful journal prompts.
Happy Not Perfect: Mind Gym
Meet Poppy Jamie, the mental health influencer and British entrepreneur who made the radical lifestyle choice to unsubscribe from habits that were making her miserable.
Her journey to healing began by recognizing that in order to be happy, she had to stop chasing perfection. “Being happy was totally accepting that my life was going to be constantly messy,” Poppy told the Sounds Good podcast.
Enter: Jamie’s Happy Not Perfect: Mind Gym app (and accompanying book). Its designed to help you overcome uncertainty, perfectionism, and fears of failure so you can come to a place of peace and compassion.
Through daily affirmations, brief meditation and audio sessions, and five-minute daily mental health exercises, these research-backed tools provide those feeling stressed, anxious, tired, or frustrated with a practical way to ground themselves. Happy Not Perfect offers free services and a premium subscription for $9.99 a month or $59.99 for a one-year subscription.
For iPhone users, the Health app is a free and accessible tool to keep track of your daily activity, manage your medications, better understand your sleep, and work with your healthcare providers to make the best choices for you. It also helps track nutrition, your daily step count, and period cycle. If you’re low on phone storage, this app might be a great solution for you!
Happiness Broadcast’s Whole: Self-Care Habit Builder
Whole features daily mood tracking to allow you to understand your moods and triggers, a gratitude journal so you can read (and share) moments of gratitude from the Whole community, and a habit builder that allows you to select specialized training modules to help you develop and strengthen habits that directly impact your mental health.
Other notable features include breathing exercises, hydration checks, sleep sounds, meditation, and more.
All of this comes together in a personalized home screen that provides you with insights into your self-care journey and the factors that contribute to it.
Charity Miles is a free socially-driven app that enables you to earn money for charity whenever you walk, run, bike, or even dance. For every mile users move, they help earn money for that charity of their choice. Since its founding in 2012, the app has helped earn nearly $3 million for amazing charities.
Fabulous: Daily Habit Tracker
Fabulous: Daily Habit Tracker helps you slowly and intentionally build healthy habits through scientifically-backed methods that add structure to your life in order to meet your goals and prioritize self-care. The app helps you build routines by breaking habits into small, attainable steps and “journeys.” The initial journey revolves around creating a healthy morning routine (drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning, for instance).
For the paid premium version with additional offerings, the app offers a 7-day free trial. After that, it’s $3.33 per month, billed annually at $39.99.
Finch: Self Care Widget Pet
Meet your newest self-care bestie: Finch: Self Care Widget Pet! Finch is a self-care pet app (think of it as a modern-day Tamagotchi pet) that helps you feel prepared and positive. The goal is simple, take care of your pet by taking care of yourself.
Start your mornings with quick mood checks and energize your pet to go exploring, then, choose from a collection of quick mindful habits from goal tracking and bullet journaling to mindful breathing exercises and quizzes. End your days with a brief gratitude exercise — designed to help you destress, reflect, and recognize the good around you.
Ten Percent Happier
Ten Percent Happier wants you to make time to sleep better, be more mindful, improve your relationships, and become just about ten percent happier. Through its library of guided meditations, videos, talks, and sleep content, the app will help you build (or boost) your meditation practice — and stick with it.
Its meditation teachers are renowned leaders in the field, offering a variety of approaches. The app offers monthly and annual subscription membership options if users want to unlock its entire collection of over 500 videos and guided meditations.
I am - Daily Affirmations
I am - Daily Affirmations is focused on changing negative thought patterns. The app sends motivational affirmations through its daily push notification features to boost your confidence.
You can alter your daily intentions depending on your needs and even set reminders when you’d like to receive them. It offers in-app purchases on both, with annual, one-month, or lifetime membership.
Perhaps one of the biggest culprits robbing us of our valuable self-care time is social media. The #blockit app is trying to help people regain their focus and stay off social media — avoiding the inevitable rabbit hole that most of us fall into.
Instead of blocking an entire site, #blockit “surgically removes” the distracting parts of the site (think: Instagram or Facebook feeds) and leaves the rest of the site untouched and available to use (like notifications and DMs). While it’s free to download and use, the app is only available for iPhone and iPad users.
Reflectly - Journal & AI Diary
Reflectly - Journal & AI Diary is a journaling and mood tracker app that uses artificial intelligence to help show you mood correlations. Stressed out recently, but you can’t exactly pinpoint why? Reflectly enables you to get to the bottom of it through its structured reflection exercises.
Reflectly uses positive psychology, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy to help provide you with an additional layer of self-care and awareness. While it does cost $9.99 per month, or $59.99 a year, the app offers a free trial.
Need a hydration accountability partner? No sweat, Plant Nanny — a hydration tracker — is here to help you. For every glass of water you drink, your plant absorbs it, allowing it to thrive.
The app suggests an appropriate amount of water you should be consuming per day based on your body type and exercise habits. It then sends automated reminders when it’s time to drink more water to help establish a regular habit of drinking water. The app is free to use but also offers in-app purchases.
If self-care means going to a museum and getting lost in centuries-past art and sculptures, DailyArt might just be your app. This free app provides its global community of over one million art lovers to learn fun facts about some of the most iconic and obscure masterpieces — on the daily. Explore and search the collection of more than 2,500 masterpieces, read 700 artist biographies and information about 500 museum collections, too!