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These Apps Will Make You Happier in 2021

A young woman sitting on a couch drinking coffee, smiling while using a happiness app on her smartphone.

We often turn to our phones when we’re bored or stressed. Unfortunately, scrolling through social media and the news rarely improves our mood. However, there are plenty of apps designed to make you feel happier.

We’ve sorted out some top picks in both general areas of happiness and self-improvement, and organized them by month. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed lately (and who isn’t?), adopting a new habit each month is a low-stress way to start working toward a happier you.

We started with meditation because starting a new year with a deep breath and some reflection seemed like the best way to dive into a happiness journey, but feel free to mix it up!

January: Meditation

The splashpage for the app Ten Percent Happier.
Ten Percent Happier

Meditation is a great skill to learn early so you can benefit from it for the rest of the year (and your life). This mindfulness practice has been shown to decrease stress and improve your mood.

The app Ten Percent Happier is full of guided meditations and practices you can do anywhere that focus on positivity. Insight Timer allows you to choose meditations based on your focus, like sleep, anxiety, or stress.

Like any skill, meditation requires consistent effort and practice. At first, it can be difficult for those who have racing thoughts. Start slow and ease into it. Pretty soon, you’ll be looking forward to how happy you feel after a few minutes of mindfulness.

February: Self-Care

The splashpage for the app Jour.

Spend the most romantic month of the year learning to love yourself. Start by downloading Jour, the app that serves as a daily self-care journal. It helps you easily track your moods and feelings. It also provides insights for a more positive mindset. Fabulous helps you build healthy habits, including scheduling regular time for yourself.

Self-care looks different for everyone. Some people prefer hot baths, while others like to cook. Experiment and try different things until you find the activities that relax and revitalize you. Then, just make sure you make time in your schedule to do those things several times a week.

March: Staying Connected

The splashpage for the app Touchnote.

Even when we aren’t in a pandemic, it can be difficult to stay in touch with friends and family. Make this month all about finding new ways to connect with loved ones. Houseparty is designed for virtual hangouts. You can play games, have a karaoke party, or chat with up to 10 people at a time.

Although it’s recently been overshadowed by Zoom, Skype is a solid option for video calls, and it works with all smartphones.

For grandparents or those who prefer more old-fashioned methods of contact, Touchnote allows you to create and send cards to loved ones straight from your phone. And, of course, texts, phone calls, and handwritten letters are always an option.

April: Nature

The splashpage for the app AllTrails.

When spring has finally sprung, fresh air and sunshine will work wonders on your mood. Celebrate the outdoors by hiking, biking, or running one of the thousands of trails mapped out on the AllTrails app. Or, go on a nature walk and identify the plants you come across with PictureThis.

Combine plants and staying hydrated by downloading Plant Nanny. This app tasks you with caring for an animated plant that only gets watered when you do (so to speak). Avoiding dehydration will make you (and your baby plant) much happier.

May: Exercise

The splashpage for the app Fitbod.

Regular exercise has been shown to make you healthier and pump oxygen to your brain, which boosts your mood. Whether you work out at home or the gym, or just squeeze it in whenever you can, there are plenty of apps that will help you reach your fitness goals.

Fitbod is a highly rated option that helps you created personalized workouts based on your goals. FitOn allows you to access group workouts for everything from yoga to Pilates.

Or, just use the AllTrails app from April to go for a walk.

June: Travel

The splashpage for the app Lonely Planet.
Lonely Planet

According to Yale’s popular course on the science of happiness, planning future experiences is one of the best ways to experience joy. Spend June planning trips you might take. Even if you don’t end up going, it’s the anticipation that makes you happy, regardless of the outcome.

Apps like TripIt and Mapify plan itineraries from your phone. You can also check out travel guides by Lonely Planet or TripAdvisor for inspiration. Then, visit Expedia or Priceline to get deals on hotels, rental cars, and flights.

July: Volunteering

The splashpage for the app Point.

Giving back is one of the easiest ways to experience true joy. Carve out a few hours each month to volunteer locally. Golden Volunteer Opportunities connects you with companies and organizations that need help. The new app POINT is trying to make volunteering as convenient as possible.

For more specialized opportunities, you can download apps like Be My Eyes, which allows you to help blind people with everyday tasks via your phone, or ShareTheMeal, on which you can pay for meals for those in need.

August: Positivity

The splashpage for the app Motivation.

Not everyone is a natural optimist. Sometimes, we need some help staying positive, especially when things are difficult. The app I am sends you daily positive affirmations for a happiness boost every morning.

The Motivation app allows you to download positive quotes about a variety of topics, including letting go, friendship, and love. It’s also easy to use the quotes as wallpaper or share them on social media.

Figuring out how to be more positive is a personal journey. First, you have to figure out what makes you happy. Some might be uplifted by reading daily Bible verses, while, for others, pics of baby animals might do the trick. Embrace whatever works for you!

September: Productivity

A splash page for the Todoist productivity app.

While productivity certainly isn’t the key to happiness, feeling unproductive doesn’t help either. If you’re a student or you work from home, Evernote can help you keep all your notes, photos, and lists organized and easy to access.

TickTick and GoodTask are great options if you’re a fan of to-do lists. If you want a sophisticated task app that also includes built-in motivation (you earn task-completion “karma”), Todoist is a great fit.

Want to gamify your productivity? If so, definitely check out Habitica. This robust, but whimsical to-do list platform is like an RPG—your character levels up whenever you check things off your to-do list.

No matter which apps you use, productivity is all about compromise. Prioritize your work and be realistic about how much you can accomplish each day. Give yourself plenty of breaks, too.

If you’re struggling to focus while working remotely, try these tips to design a home office that will help you stay productive.

October: Humor

The splashpage for the site JibJab.

Although October is traditionally the month to focus on dark and spooky things, try to add some extra humor, too. Laugh My App Off sends you short, silly jokes every day, while JibJab allows you to make funny e-cards, videos, and GIFs on your phone.

There are also plenty of ways to work in some laughs via apps you probably already have on your phone. Many comedians and humorous content creators share their stuff on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and more.

You can also check out the constantly growing list of comedy specials on Netflix to find a new favorite.

November: Gratitude

The splashpage for the app 365 Gratitude.
365 Gratitude Journal

Be happier with what you have by expressing gratitude during the month of thankfulness. The Gratitude app is full of quotes, vision boards, and other tools to help you be grateful for what you have and make you more eager to give back. 365 Gratitude Journal sends you prompts every day that help you reflect on the good things in your life.

Whether you use an app or not, just trying to be more grateful will make you happier each day. If you just spend a few minutes each morning thinking about the things you’re thankful for, you’ll be amazed how much better you feel.

If you have kids, you can also try some of these activities to help them get into the thankful spirit, too.

December: Sleep

The splashpage for the app Sleep Cycle.
Sleep Cycle

Getting enough sleep is crucial for overall health and well-being. Poor sleep can affect your immune system, heart health, and dietary choices. Take advantage of the holiday season by figuring out how you can create an ideal sleep setting.

You can start with the Sleep Cycle app to analyze your sleep patterns and figure out where you’re struggling. If you have trouble falling asleep, download the Calm app for sleep meditations, or the Sleep Sounds app for a wide selection of white noise and ambient music.

If you tend to fall asleep quickly, but wake up in the middle of the night, try some of these tips. If nothing seems to help your poor sleep patterns, be sure to talk to your doctor to rule out any medical issues.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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