The Digital Issue

Editors’ Picks: The Products, Apps, Services, and Podcasts That Kept Us Going in 2021

If 2020 felt like the same year on repeat, 2021 was the year we started to shake off the cobwebs and sharpen our arsenal of mental health tools. After the initial shock of the pandemic, we quickly realized how important it was to find comfort and joy in the smallest of things, despite an overall feeling of languishing.

While they’re not a cure-all, the Verywell Mind team rounded up the things that helped us get through a particularly grueling time and continue to lift our spirits. From wearable fidget spinners to meditation apps, here are the things that have kept us going.

Anxiety Rings 

Rotating planet spinning anxiety ring

Impulse & Modern

There is no magic accessory that can suddenly relieve the anxiety we’ve compiled in recent years. That said, these anxiety rings from small business Impulse & Modern aim to “bring about a peaceful state of mind and good karma.”

The spinning motion of the Rotating Planet Spinning Anxiety Adjustable Ring is not just mesmerizing to look at but increases focus and channels nervous or excess energy away from body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRB) like nail-biting or chewing, which have been found common in those with ADHD or a family history of BFRB. Plus, they come in a variety of stunning designs and features that deliver on function without compromising style.

Andria Park Huynh, Editor

A pretty piece of jewelry that doubles as a discreet fidget spinner? Sold.

— Andria Park Huynh, Editor

FightCamp 

The benefits of exercise for our well-being are extensive. And with the abundance of fitness apps that have come about as a result of the pandemic, we’ve naturally found and stuck to a few that deliver an ideal blend of both physical and mental exercise. FightCamp is one that combines boxing, plyometrics, and body-weight exercises into one high-intensity interval training session that works your full body and mind.

Through Punch Trackers and quick wraps that come with any of the membership options, you can track real-time progress, including your punch counts and punch rate, while an expert FightCamp trainer motivates you on screen. They also have carefully curated music stations to help you find your groove, though you can even punch to the beat of your own tunes.

Nick Ingalls, Senior Editor

Each workout is tough but easy enough to follow, and I always end up feeling like I’ve relieved some stress in addition to working up a sweat.

— Nick Ingalls, Senior Editor

Shine

Shine mindfulness self-care app interface

Shine App

Founded by owners Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi due to the lack of inclusive wellness offerings, Shine’s self-care app answers an ever-pressing need to fill our own cup before tackling the things on our plate that are often demanded by others.

We’ve particularly been loving the “Daily Check-in” feature, which serves up a meme, a thought, and a meditation that aligns with their theme for the day (i.e., “Calm Body, Calm Mind”). You then have the option of checking in on your mood or your gratitude (*some features may only be available in the premium version) through a series of simulated text messages that almost sound like pep talks from your closest friend. 

But what really seals the experience are the “takeaways” that follow after the meditation. Often, at the end of meditations, we might be left wondering how to apply them throughout the course of the day. The “takeaways” put the meditation into perspective and help you reflect on what you’ve practiced so you can apply what you've learned throughout the rest of the day.

Google Keep

Google Keep

Google

For whatever productivity we could muster despite pandemic brain fog, this Google Suite-owned note-taking service has been a lifesaver. While our team has been fortunate to be able to work from home for almost two years, separating work tasks from our rest-of-life tasks wasn’t easy for all of us.

Google Keep’s appealing interface made it all the more satisfying to create lists for the things we needed to do (think: groceries, projects to complete), the things we wanted to do (shows to watch, artists to check out), and the things we simply needed to keep track of (wish lists, dog duties, etc.). 

Our favorite part is being able to color-categorize each list and see them all at a glance on one screen. You can also add to or edit them while at home on desktop and pick up where you left off on the go where the changes will sync to the mobile app. Crossing things off our lists during a time where days seemed to blend together made that feeling of accomplishment all the more impactful. Research shows that the simple act of creating these checklists frees up mental space.

Opal

Opal mindfulness app

Opal.so

The shift to remote working and schooling has undoubtedly affected screen time habits. In fact, a 2021 report from mobile data and analytics firm App Annie shows that global consumers are now spending an average of 4.2 hours per day using apps on their smartphones, an increase of 30% from just two years prior.

While we juggled the need to stay connected virtually with our friends and family and the need to step away from our devices for our mental health, Opal helped strike the perfect balance. Opal is a wellness app that successfully blocks any apps for designated periods of time. With the help of a digital mindfulness assistant, you can set timers for distracting apps like Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok and set goals to track your progress.

You can go in and take a break from your set boundaries if you really want to, but it requires writing an explanation for doing so, like checking Instagram for 10 minutes to respond to a message. This step makes you think twice about your reason for going into the app during your adjusted time frame and instead brings your focus back to whatever you're working on.

Kate Nelson, Associate Editor

I’ve ultimately saved hours daily, and I highly recommend it to anyone who struggles with wasting time on their phone.

— Kate Nelson, Associate Editor

The Verywell Mind Podcast

Host of The Verywell Mind Podcast Amy Morin, LCSW

Verywell / Hetal Rathod

Call it a shameless plug. While we might be biased in featuring The Verywell Mind Podcast—hosted by our very own editor-in-chief, Amy Morin—our reasons for loving it are all the same.

The episodes deliver insightful strategies and tips for handling hard-hitting topics that anyone can relate to—like “How to Change the Soundtracks in Your Head” or “Stop the Toxic Positivity”—at a time where we need it most.

Aside from the Friday Fix shows, which offer timely bite-sized nuggets of wisdom, longer episodes feature unexpected high-profile guests—from fitness trainer Jillian Michaels to actor and author Justin Baldoni—who offer a glimpse into their secrets for staying “mentally strong.” Since its inception last September, the podcast has allowed us to navigate the ongoing difficult events and the emotions that came with them.

Press Play for More Mental Strength Tips

On this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, editor-in-chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, shares a quick science-backed strategy that can help you find inner strength when you need it most. Click below to listen now.

Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts / RSS

Spitballers

They say laughter is the best medicine, and podcasts like Spitballers are proof.

Hosted by three dads who discuss ridiculous topics, like which Disney characters to start a podcast with, and answer life’s most difficult questions (Would you rather drink five espresso shots before bed or have someone throw ice on you each morning to wake up?)—Jason, Andy, and Mike make you rethink the idea that clean humor is less funny. This comedic podcast has been a crowd-pleaser for at least a couple of our team members.

Ayana Underwood, Assistant Editor

It provided lots of comic relief when I was going through a rough time personally. As someone who uses humor as a coping mechanism, it was just what I needed. Plus, it’s pretty mindless, so I can listen to it throughout the workday without being distracted.

— Ayana Underwood, Assistant Editor

Teladoc

Person chatting with health provider on their phone via video chat

Teladoc

Although we recently dubbed Teladoc as the best therapy service for psychiatry, we’ve seen positive experiences with their talk therapy alone.

After an easy signup process, you get to choose which therapist you want to work with based on their profile and your needs. From there, you can schedule three dates/times from their calendar that work best with your schedule and chat with your therapist over video or phone. The best part is that many health plans and employers (including ours) provide Teladoc as part of their benefits, which has been a win-win for our wallets and our well-being.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Redden SA, Leppink EW, Grant JE. Body focused repetitive behavior disorders: significance of family historyCompr Psychiatry. 2016;66:187-192. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2016.02.003

  2. Tsai C-L, Wang C-H, Pan C-Y, Chen F-C, Huang T-H, Chou F-Y. Executive function and endocrinological responses to acute resistance exerciseFront Behav Neurosci. 2014;8. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00262

  3. Masicampo EJ, Baumeister RF. Consider it done! Plan making can eliminate the cognitive effects of unfulfilled goalsJ Pers Soc Psychol. 2011;101(4):667-683. doi:10.1037/a0024192

  4. App Annie. Winning the attention war: consumers in nine major markets now spend more than four hours a day in apps. Published April 8, 2021.