The hardware and software on smartwatches can be incredibly powerful in monitoring and analyzing various aspects of your health. And while they are commonly associated with physical items, they can do wonders for your mental health, too.
With the right device and the right set of apps, you can turn your smartwatch into a personal life coach and improve mental health in a number of ways. This article will show you how.
1. Sleep tracking
You’ve heard it a million trillion times now: sleep is essential to mental health and wellness. Some would argue that sleep is the most important variable in determining your overall level of well-being. Rest helps regulate mood, reduce stress, improve mental clarity, and increase energy levels. For this reason, sleep tracking continues to be one of the most interesting tech wellness trends.
Unfortunately, you may not be getting enough sleep. Furthermore, even though you may think you only sleep a few minutes or even a few hours over the course of a week, you may have more chronic sleep debt than you think.
Sleep tracking is a feature that you can find on many devices, including the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch. With these devices, you can determine your sleep habits and understand the full range of potential sleep problems. And once you understand the scale of the problem, you may find yourself motivated to develop a customized plan to fix it.
For those with more severe sleep issues, Apple announced a partnership with the NightWare PTSD app, which will come pre-installed on specially customized Apple Watches that patients can get with prescriptions. The app and device are designed to disable nightmares as they happen.
2. Nutrition and diet tracking
Improving your health and wellness is not something you do once and then forget. It’s not even a ride that you complete; Instead, it is more easily understood as a way of life and lifestyle. Tracking your nutrition and diet is one of the most effective ways to build eating habits that support a healthy lifestyle.
By keeping track of what you eat, you will not only be able to ensure that you are consuming the right amounts of the right types of food for your physical goals (building muscle, losing weight, etc.), it will help you understand how different it is. Foods affect energy levels and mental state, especially when combined with a mood tracker.
You can use a service like the popular MyFitnessPal to track what you’ve eaten and stay on track with your diet. The service is available on Apple, Samsung and Garmin smartwatches. With this app on your smartwatch, you can view a nutritional intake chart for the day, track your water consumption, and add food items to calculate your total daily calories.
Download: MyFitnessPal for watchOS | Samsung | Garmin (Free, in-app purchases available)
If you’re using a Samsung device, Samsung Health is also a reliable option for tracking your nutrition and diet. The app recommends setting a calorie intake goal for your diet based on your age, height, weight, and activity levels.
3. Physical observation
Most fitness trackers and smartphones feature a pedometer for counting steps, and many devices — including the Apple Watch — can measure your heart rate, sleep habits, and other metrics.
It’s important to note that heart rate trackers have been around for some time, but it’s not always clear how they work. Devices that record heart rate may be useful for providing a baseline number, but heart rate tracking apps are not as accurate when compared to medical devices, especially during exercise.
Caveats aside, the Apple Watch has a built-in app called Activity. This tracks how much you move each day, as regular exercise can help reduce levels of anxiety and depression.
If you’re an athlete, you’ll find data from Samsung’s bioactivity sensor especially useful, which comes equipped on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, Galaxy Watch5, and Galaxy Watch5 Pro. This sensor differs from other devices on the market by using a single computer chip that combines three health sensors: optical heart rate, cardiac electrical signal, and bioelectrical impedance analysis. This is the first device that can accurately measure the body fat index.
With smartwatches, you can set personal goals, get tips and suggestions on what you can do to improve your physical health, and see how you’re progressing toward your goals.
4. Track and motivate your workouts
One of the most popular uses for smartwatches, particularly among people who exercise regularly or train for an event like a marathon or triathlon, is to provide motivation and tracking. If you are one of those people, then a GPS-enabled smartwatch will allow you to monitor the distance you have run or cycled.
Smartwatch apps can provide how-to videos that show you how to properly perform certain exercises — and most include audio coaching, so it’s like having a coach with you wherever you go.
5. Monitor your stress levels
As you probably know, too much stress can cause all kinds of problems for your mental health. These include anxiety, irritability and sleep problems.
It is also very difficult to monitor your stress levels. This is another area where smartwatches can play an important role. Not only do they monitor everything from heart rate to sleep patterns, but they can also include a stress score, which combines elements like sleep quality and exercise into a single number. And since it feeds in data collected throughout the day (or night), it gives you a complete picture of how well and how poorly your body recovers from daily stresses.
If you find yourself overly stressed, a smartwatch can lead you through a guided breathing session designed to down-regulate your nervous system.
Use a smart watch to improve your mental health
You probably wouldn’t replace your therapist or doctor with a smartwatch, at least not yet. Until you do, you can use a smartwatch as a useful tool to help you stay on top of your mental health.
Since smartwatches are always improving, they may soon be able to provide you with more detailed information about how your body and mind work.