7 Apps for Unplugging and Powering Down
Here are seven of our favorite apps and sites to help you disconnect and de-clutter your overheated mind.
Headache Addressed: Reducing distractions in this age of split-second attention spans
What It Offers: Built by the makers of the top-selling mobile game Monument Valley, the PAUSE app is based on the graceful, flowing movements of Tai Chi. You slowly, steadily move your fingertip across your screen to manipulate a mutating blob of color along a sinuous path. If you get distracted and release your finger from the screen, the effects fade away, calling your attention back to the exercise. As you narrow your focus on this one task, the knots in your perpetually-multitasking mind loosen and your heart rate slows.
Ideal Use Case: On your morning subway commute, when your earbuds aren’t armor enough against the wailing kid, preaching proselytizer, and heavy breather pressed against your back.
Headache Addressed: Pulling the emergency brake on your hyperspeed pace
What It Offers: Billed as a “gym membership for the mind,” Headspace is packed with themed meditation content. You get the basic Take10 program free, which includes 10 days’ worth of daily 10-minute meditation sessions. Then you can level up to access paid packs on everything from how to sleep better to how to become a better listener. Headspace stands out among the myriad of meditation apps thanks to creator Andy Puddicombe’s pleasant British lilt and casual speaking style (“Have a stretch, if you’d like to”) and the app’s clean interface. The lack of Buddhas or luscious beachscapes, combined with easy-to-follow instructions, makes meditation approachable no matter your level of experience.
Ideal Use Case: When you need to press pause on your life—back-to-back meetings, missed calls, unanswered emails, head-thrashingly slow wifi—for a brief spell.
Headache Addressed: The need to mentally escape your concrete-jungle-situated office building
What It Offers: You know how everything feels cleaner, calmer, simpler—just overall better, in nature? With this transportive app, desk-chained workers can get a much-needed cubicle respite in the virtual outdoors. Choose your preferred scenery (there are 27 truly immersive options ranging from rhythmic waves and foggy stream to plains of wheat and celestial sunbeams; word to the wise, each one is a pretty hefty download) and get started.
Ideal Use Case: For working smarter—research shows that taking regular breaks throughout the work day increases productivity and creativity.
Headache Addressed: Finding quiet meeting space
What It Offers: When you need to take a breather, but you’re not sure where in your open office, busy co-working space, or toddler-populated apartment that would even be possible, check out this on-demand listings app for peaceful spaces that you can book for 30 minutes, a few hours, or even an entire day. Depending on the city and the space (the service is currently only available in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Montreal, and Ottawa), room rates average $30 per hour.
Ideal Use Case: When you want to schedule an unplugged off-site for your team that doesn’t involve a boardroom table, sterile whiteboard, or pack of onlookers clamoring for your coffee shop table.
Headache Addressed: Resetting your brain in an actually restorative way (looking at you, Twitter)
What It Offers: This interactive art program turns your mouse—or finger, on iOS—drawings into a mesmerizing display of colors and patterns. You just click and drag to splash one fluorescent hue on top of another to create electric, psychedelic designs. It’s like spin art for the digital age, that you can save and share.
Ideal Use Case: When you need to erase your brain like an Etch A Sketch and reset, without even the minimal mental energy required to burrow down the rabbit hole of social media.
Headache Addressed: Forming human connections in a sometimes isolating digitally-powered world
What It Offers: When’s the last time you had a pen pal? Probably not since grade school. This app allows you to power an old-school, person-to-person connection with people across the globe. Compose your own letters, send them as open missives or private correspondence, and browse through others’ creations. Letters can be anything from a traditional postcard to a poem. Choose from a multitude of digital stamps to accompany them.
Ideal Use Case: You want to temporarily unplug from your relationships at hand—your company cofounder, your fellow coffice (coffee shop + office) workers—and make a human connection.
Headache Addressed: Clocking a few minutes of childlike fun in a conference-call-filled day
What It Offers: As you type text, either on desktop or mobile, Typatone turns your keystrokes into sounds. It assigns a different tone to each letter, then when you’re done typing, loops them together into a musical gif. Remix the style and key of the sounds with one simple tap. If you want to keep a creation for future playback, download the track as a .wav file to your computer, or send your melodic text in an email or text so your recipient can hear the tune of your message while they read. You can share your mini-concerto to Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, too. It’s a playful pick-me-up that brings unexpected lightness to a rote activity.
Use Case: When Spotify’s Acoustic Concentration playlist just isn’t doing it for you and you need to take a recess from your pile of paperwork.
More about Allison Stadd
Allison Stadd is a New York-based marketer, freelance blogger, and digital life coach. She's produced content, crafted social media strategy, and built online and offline communities for everything from small women-owned businesses to global brands.