Perhaps your New Year’s resolutions involved plans to nurture that mind-body connection or simply bring down stress levels by taking yoga or meditation classes. Now, as spring approaches, the thrill has morphed into dread, and attempts to squeeze in those plans have left you even more stressed.
For the sake of your sanity, consider the next best thing: online wellness subscriptions. Affordable and easy to fit into the most hectic schedules, these can perk up your spirit just in time for the new season.
“Online is so much more convenient,” said Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project,” a book about her experiments in the pursuit of happiness and good habits.
“People can do things with an app that they couldn’t do if they (had to) actually show up in a class.”
Rubin and Kati Morton, licensed therapist in Los Angeles, who manage a popular mental health YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/KatiMorton), offered tips on choosing the right online course for you.
Don’t wait to feel depressed. Most people don’t consider upping their wellness game unless faced with an emotional or physical crisis. But you shouldn’t wait to reach the end of your rope to take action, said Morton.
Instead, she suggests looking for telltale signs your mind and body could use a reboot — having troubles sleeping, feeling fearful or stressed out. “The best time to try something like this is now,” Rubin added.
Let your personality guide you. Investing in an online wellness subscription after hearing a friend raving about it often leads to disappointment.
“There’s nothing that universally works for everybody,” said Rubin, who owns an app called Better. “Think about yourself and what’s true about you.”
Build on things that you already like, added Morton. “If you enjoy walking or have always been involved in sports, then you might focus more on yoga or any kind of movement-based therapy.” On the other hand, meditation works better for those consumed by obsessive thoughts.
Take it for a spin. No matter how much something resonates with you, resist the temptation to invest right off the bat in the Unlimited package — usually the priciest option. The risk, Morton said, is “you’ll try it twice and never do it again.”
A bundle of, say, intuitive eating classes, can be difficult to test out beforehand. But most apps focused on mental well-being do offer free trials. To access them, you’ll be asked for your credit card information. Set an alarm on your phone, so you don’t have to pay once the trial expires,” Morton advises.
Do your homework. Before purchasing a month’s worth of self-care classes, pay attention to logistics. Is there any mention of email or text notifications? If so, how often will those hit your inbox? “Some people like that; others find that reminders annoy them and make them want to do something less,” explained Rubin.
Likewise, look up the program to make sure it won’t do more harm than good, pointed out Morton. “There’s been some apps not empirically supported that can be damaging.”
On iTunes, apps are rated by customers. Mental health associations make for trustworthy sources. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), for instance, posts reviews of mental health apps, with scores from 1 to 5 for “ease of use,” “effectiveness” or “research evidence.”
And think twice before paying big bucks to join your favorite spiritual guru’s online classes. Celebrity does not necessarily correlate with a program’s effectiveness, said Morton. “You can spend all the money in the world, but if you don’t like it, you’re not going to get any benefit out of it.”
Below are three types of wellness subscriptions and apps to fit various lifestyles and budgets.
Meditation. If you’re just getting started, try Headspace. Its guided meditation sessions are perfect for beginners and can be listened to on your phone or computer. While the app itself it’s free, subscriptions are $12.95 per month or $7.99 per month if you sign up for a year. There’s also a 10-day free trial.
Looking for an affordable quick fix? Opt for Buddhify. At only $4.99, this beautifully designed app delivers 80 different short audio tracks for every moment of the day, including Work, Going to Sleep, When Stressed, Traveling, Walking, Online, etc. For a dollar more, you can access Pacifica, which combines meditation with journaling and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization.
Yoga. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned yogi looking to switch things up, YogaGlo has something for everyone. For $18 per month, you get unlimited access to over 3,500 online streaming classes taught by reputed yoga teachers and ranging from five to 120 minutes. It offers a 15-days-free trial.
Maybe you want the flexibility to play around with your budget and your exercise choices. The Cody app and website provide just that: a mix of low intensity workouts, such as yoga and Pilates, plus fitness-inspired workouts from weightlifting to high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Instead of subscribing, you buy a plan. Costs vary greatly, based on complexity and teachers’ reputation. Among the budget-friendly options is a $19.99 Journey to Headstand 31-day plan. Pricier choices include the $159.99 EmBody Yoga Bundle with 39 classes taught by Jessamyn Stanley and Dana Falsetti, plus-size Instagram yogi sensations.
Intuitive eating. Created by registered dietitians, these courses are geared toward women who struggle with body issues or disordered eating patterns. Still, thanks to an emphasis on mindfulness, anyone can benefit from them.
Sought-after programs are the ones by nutritionists Christy Harrison and Robyn Coale. Harrison’s 13-week online course, priced at $329, contains audio, video and interactive exercises meant to teach clients to “give up dieting for good, “start exercising for the joy of movement” and more.
Coale, who coaches people via phone or Skype at Nutshell Nutrition, branches out beyond food issues. She gives advice on achieving a healthy weight, managing stress, improving sleep and more. Her services accommodate all budgets. A 35-minute Q&A call is $95, while packages start at $445.
Andreea Ciulac is a freelance writer.