#WellbeingWednesday: Learning to Thrive

Many of us are turning to technology to help us manage our difficulties with our mental health and there are a lot of great websites and apps out there for this.  A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to test-drive a new mental health and wellbeing app called ‘Thrive.’   For this weeks’ #WellbeingWednesday post, I wanted to share my experiences of using Thrive over the last five weeks. (As a disclaimer, I will add I have not been paid anything to write this review or been asked to write a specific review).

There are a lot of mental wellbeing apps out there but what set Thrive apart for me was that they were NHS-approved and all evidence-based.  Naturally, this captured my interest – and how could it not when I work as an NHS therapist and have also struggled with my own mental health?  I’m always interested in anything that can aid anyone who is trying to self-manage their symptoms of anxiety and/or depression and if it has the NHS vote of confidence, it’s definitely one to try.  So, when I saw some posts about Thrive on social media, I reached out to their marketing team and asked if they would allow me to use the app and review it for my blog – and they very kindly complied!

What is Thrive for?   Thrive is billed as being for “anyone wanting help and support to take better control of their emotions.”  That being said, the content on the app is mainly suited for individuals that are struggling with any kind of anxiety issues, such as panic attacks or stress.

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What kind of therapy is Thrive?   I was particularly interested to find out what kind of content the app would include.  As a therapist, I help people to manage symptoms related to a wide range of anxiety disorders which include OCD, PTSD, panic attacks and more.  In my own work, I primarily make use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and some elements of mindfulness as these are the approaches that are clinically proven to be effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders.  I was delighted to see that Thrive makes use of a lot of great mindfulness and meditation-based techniques that are clinically proven to be effective for the management of anxiety.

In my own use of the app, there were times when I would pick up my phone during stressful or overwhelming periods and head to the app to see what relief it could offer.  In situations where I was feeling distressed, I found the meditation and muscle relaxation exercises to be the most effective.  However, using an app or any kind of therapeutic technique is not like taking a magic pill that instantly makes your symptoms disappear.  It takes time and practice and initially, you might find you do struggle to get much use out of a technique.  For me, trying to calm myself down enough to pay attention to the relaxation exercises was a challenge because I am often so restless.  However, learning to slow down and be still was part of what was so helpful about these exercises for me.

As well as relaxation, the app also helps you to look at your thoughts.  There is a built-in thought-trainer that allows you to spot your emotions and thoughts that are connected with them.  You then are given support in trying to find a new way of thinking about the situation and are essentially being given tools to stand up to your negative thoughts.  Again, in my own use, I found this part of the content to be immeasurably helpful.  There were times I was worried about something and that worry seemed to engulf everything – until I took a step back and used the tools to re-frame my thoughts.

What features does Thrive have?  There are a lot of great features with the app.  One of my favourites is the mood meter.  Every time you log in, you’re greeted with this and then asked to link your mood to what’s happening and what you’re feeling.

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There is also a daily goals page where different exercises are suggested to you that will undoubtedly enhance your mood – everything from seeing a friend, to exercise, to meditation.

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A little extra incentive to participate in your goals is the fact that you can collect Zen points as you do so.

What were the best parts about using it?   Like most apps, it is incredibly convenient and easy to use.  It’s also always there for you to be able to check-in with whenever you might need it.  As well as that, having now used the app myself for several weeks, I can see that it really is a great off-shoot for conventional face-to-face therapy with a professional.  Everything that you get on the app is what you would find with a professional you might go to see.  The only thing that is missing is the lack of human contact which can also be very important for some – but perhaps as technology and artificial intelligence improve, maybe that will come into fruition too!  Mainly, I think the app works great as either an introduction into further therapy or as just a self-management tool to keep around.

What were any downsides to using it?  There weren’t any truly horrible parts of using the app itself.  The app is still being beta-tested but I only ever encountered one bug.  I think the app does require a lot of self-motivation as you are responsible for checking in with it.  Depending on who you are and where you are on your journey with your mental health, I think some people may still benefit from seeing a professional before they use the app.  As well as that, the app is set up for people who are in a position to self-manage which will not be the case for everyone experiencing anxiety and stress.  If you are struggling or in crisis, it would be much more beneficial to seek immediate help through your GP or emergency services.  The app also signposts individuals in distress to these services.

Does Thrive cost anything?  It’s a free app that has some features which require a subscription fee of £5.99 a month.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with Thrive and really did feel richer for making use of it.

Have any of you used any apps or websites to help you manage your mental health? If so, what were your experiences like? Leave me a comment, I would love to know!

#WellbeingWednesday is a weekly series looking at mental health, self-care and wellbeing.  Some of you may already know that in my offline life, I am a psychotherapist.  My job is multifaceted but it can be condensed down to one simple principle: empowering people with knowledge about mental health problems and then giving them the practical tools to manage their symptoms.  I thought it was about time I bought some of these conversations about mental health onto the blog because it’s so very relevant – after all, all of us are affected by stress, low mood or anxiety at some point in our lives.  I will be looking at a different topic each week and if you have a suggestion for one, please do leave a comment!


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