MT. PLEASANT, Mich -- New Year's resolutions, we all make them, we all don't keep them. January 1st we write that list of health, happiness and organization goals, and come February they just become another fridge decoration. It's hard to keep up with our New Year expectations for ourselves, and that's usually because we set unrealistic goals that we can't conceivably achieve. But don't despair, you don't have to throw away the idea of a "New Year, New You" here's a few New Year's resolutions that you can actually keep and tools that can help you can make them happen. Happy goal-setting everybody!
1. IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL STAMINA
It's hard to stay focused and expand our cognitive capacities in a fast-paced modern world that's full of distractions. But buffing up your mental stamina has a lot of sweet benefits like, more controlled moods, faster learning abilities, and improved problem solving skills. It's just good for your all around mental-health, and therefore your productivity. There's plenty of tools that can expand your mental muscles like ancient meditation techniques and games, but let's be honest who has time for an hour long meditation session or a game of trivial pursuit? Never fear, the world of apps is here! Check out our favorite picks for tools to calm your mind and/or stretch it's mental capacities right from your smartphone or mobile device.
Meditation, Mindfulness, and Stress-Relieving Tools:
- Headspace: If you've always wanted to try implementing meditation techniques into your daily schedule but never thought you'd have the time, this is the solution for you. It teaches basic mindfulness strategies in a fun and engaging way, in addition to offering 2-3 minute guided meditation sessions that explore topics like sleep, stress, focus and exercise. If you're still having a hard time sticking with the app, you can add friends to keep you motivated and on track.
- MindMeister: Does your brain move a million miles a minute? Welcome to the club. Sometimes the issue doesn't necessarily have to do with mental capacity, but the ability to organize and focus on the thoughts that lead us towards health, organization, and success. Enter mindmapping. This process allows you to brainstorm in your usual chaotic manner, visually chart them out in no particular order, and then organize them into cohesive ideas and strategies. MindMeister can be used on it's online interface or from the app. You can create unlimited thought maps, add files and images, and export them to a PDF or PNG!
- Ambi Pro: For most of us, especially those that live in major cities, our surroundings are boisterous, distracting, and can even be stress-inducing. Fill your day with ambient sounds to relax and concentrate your mind, focus more on your important thoughts, and block out the almost inescapable white noise of modern life. Ambi Pro utilizes looping audio recordings with a special algorithm that creates a blend of changing, soft noises that doesn't bore your agile brain. In addition it utilizes special digital reverb to give the sounds a sense of wholeness and depth. You can design and save your own presets, as well as program the sounds to switch on and off at specific times for total ambience control.
- Day One: For some of us, the best way to identify, understand, and manage our thoughts are to write them down. Day One is a journaling tool that offers a beautiful, easy to use interface that aims to help you keep a clear mind. There's no ads, no distractions, so you can focus, uninterrupted. It's full of fun features that will make journaling seem like a hobby, and less like a chore, like the ability to add pictures, import iphone metadata so you can flesh out your entries with information like weather, news stories, and music you played that day. It also features numerous organization options, so you can browse your entries by calendar, timeline, maps or photos!
Brain-Training and Cognitive Capacity Tools:
- Lumosity: This highly-popular brain-building app is reportedly used by 70 million people worldwide. Described as a cognitive science tool, it utilizes brain-training games to help you flex those mental muscles! But don't be put off by the term "cognitive science" the games are actually totally engaging and fun! It's also completely customizable, so you can choose the mental faculties you want to expand and it creates a daily routine of tasks to complete for you, tailored to the skills you want to test. The design is minimalistic and understated so that you can focus on the exercise at hand, and stay in the zone.
- Elevate: Elevate operates on a similar concept to Lumosity, so similar, in fact that the two tools have a bit of an app-lover rivalry, with users staunchly defending their choice in online forums, blogs and articles. We encourage you to make your own judgements, as everyone's brain is different and therefore responds to different types of training tools, but Elevate seems to win a slightly larger amount of praise. It includes over 40 games, created by neural science experts, aimed at improving focus, speaking skills, processing speed, memory, math skills and more! As you train, the program keeps track of your movements, so you receive recorded proof of your progress, and for those who love a little friendly competition, you can even compare scores with your friends! Unlike Lumosity, the design of Elevate is bright and loud, with entertaining features like moving cartoon-like objects including nesting dolls and spaceships!
- Memorado: Strong brain, strong life, is this app's motto. An innovative tool that combines brain-training with mindfulness this innovative cross-over provides a holistic approach to overall neural performance. It features 24 games with over 720 levels that stretch your cognitive abilities, in addition to 4 mindfulness levels that lower stress and restore mental balance. It's algorithm adjusts based on your progress, to create a personalized training schedule to help you meet and exceed your goals in addition to giving you access to numerous "in-house" neurologists and researchers to help answer your questions and give you motivation when you need it.
- BrainHQ: This mental workout tool is in a class of it's own, and it should be, for the price of a full monthly or annual subscription! It's the most rigorous cognitive capacity app we've seen yet, backing up it's process with 30 years of research from top scientists around the world, and receiving praise from over 100 publications. It's numerous attention and brain-speed activities, as well as intelligence tests claim to provide a wide range of benefits, from better driving skills, higher confidence in intellectual conversation, better hearing in crowded places, and even a boost to your tennis game!
2. MEET NEW PEOPLE
It's far too easy to get stuck in the rut of working 9-5, driving home, throwing a quick dinner together and vegging out on the couch until it's time to hit the hay. While it's hard to avoid slipping into this routine, it's extremely harmful to your mental health, besides, you're missing out on a lot of interesting events and opportunities that are happening around you everyday! Connecting with new people can have a huge impact on your health and happiness, it can help you learn and try new things, enhance your communication skills, not to mention it can be a life-changing career move! Especially, if you are a naturally shy or introverted person, putting yourself out there and approaching strangers can be debilitating, but thanks to the conveniences of our modern world it doesn't have to be agonizing. Even if you consider yourself a people person, utilizing apps, online forums and people-meeting sites can connect you with amazing people who you probably never would have met otherwise. Check out our picks for modern tools that help you engage with interesting people in our modern era, or you could just approach that cool regular that hangs out at your coffee shop from open till close. Totally up to you.
- Meetup: You've probably heard of this app, but have you used it? It's pretty handy for putting you into contact with people that share your causes, interests, and hobbies. It showcases groups based in thousands of cities that help you do more of what you love, while interacting with new people that share your passions. No matter what your interests are; photography, hiking, social justice, knitting or board games, there's bound to be a group in your area that will connect you with people like you.
- WeGoDo: Think of this app as Facebook with a purpose. It connects your profile to people near you that are interested in the same hobbies and activities. Sounds like Meetup, right? Well, it's a little different. It offers a social media-esque experience, allowing you to post photos and comments about the things you've done, want to do, or what's been on your mind. In addition, it includes a news feed of local deals, curated content and recommendations.
- Patook: A platonic friend-making app, Patook matches you with potential, new connections based on a point system. Once you create your profile, you will rate your various friendship preferences and then be matched to people who closest match your scorings. In order to connect, you can either send an anonymous message or rank each other to begin a conversation. It also includes public message boards, based on location, that allow you to schedule group meet-ups or simply share your thoughts.
- WE3: Think that three's a crowd? This app disagrees, in fact it's creators think it's the optimal number as far as group friendships go. To be matched, you have to swipe through statement cards and reply with agree, disagree or neutral. Based on your responses, the app will place you in a "tribe" with two other individuals who have high compatibilities and are the same gender. Only members of the "tribes" you are placed in have the ability to view your profile, so your privacy is protected. This app is a great tool for those who struggle in one-on-one situations, or for those who are simply looking for group friendship.
3. DISCOVER NEW MUSIC
- Mixcloud: Instead of recommending singular artists, Mixcloud matches you with mixes from both amateur and professional DJs that weave in and out of various genres and styles, giving you exposure to styles and artists you wouldn't usually be exposed to on your own. You can search for playlists by artist names or keywords, follow DJs you particularly enjoy, and learn about the songs that are the soundtrack to your day.
- Bandcamp: An oldie but a goodie. This online music company has been around for 10 years, and it's still one of the best ways to find new artists and songs. The platform allows lesser-known, independent musicians to sell their music and set their own price, so you can feel good knowing that your purchase supports the artist, not a record label. The site includes weekly featured artists and staff merchandise picks so there's always something new for you to explore.
- SoundCloud: Built for those who like to musically wander, the largest music and audio platform, SoundCloud, lets you discover a world of sound from a diverse creator community. You can share music, connect directly with artists, and access unique recordings of raw demos, breakthrough tracks and more!
- Spotify: This music streaming platform comes with great features for finding music you'll love, among them being their radio stations and public playlists. But the greatest built-in feature is "Discover Weekly" which tracks your listening habits over the course of several weeks and then recommends artists based off your most listened to tracks. Plus you can archive your discover weekly playlists so if there's one you particularly like you can save it to revisit as often as you'd like.
We hope this blog was helpful in giving you some New Year's resolution inspiration! Have you used any of the tools we've recommended? If so, what did you think? Comment and let us know. Happy New Year!
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