Working at the intersection of tech and wellbeing, I’ve tried out many apps, wearables, tools, and resources to help with experiments to improve my performance and strive for a long healthspan. I’ve spent years compiling this list and have organized it based on a framework to enhance daily performance of Mindset - Nutrition - Movement - Recovery. I hope this recommendation list helps with your research to help improve your life. If you think I should check out a great resource I’m missing, drop me a message.
Gyroscope - If you own an Apple Watch or Fitbit, you will want this app. The developers call it the "Operating System for the Human Body." It's the wellbeing app I use the most since it syncs all my data into a single useful interface. I highly recommend upgrading to the Pro version to unlock it's best features. Plus they continue to release regular updates that significantly improve the product. It's available for both iOS and Android. However, the Apple Watch is the only wearable app they've built. Data for behavior change isn't for everyone, but for those who like data, this app gets my highest recommendation. I spoke to Anand Sharma the Founder of Gyroscope about his vision for the product and posted my conversation here.
HabitMinder - I generally don’t use an app for building new habits. However, there are some use cases when it comes in handy. For example, while recovering from a broken ankle, I had to do a series of rehab exercises throughout the day. I used HabitMinder to include all the exercises and track my progress. This is the app I recommend in my How To Create Habits Workshop.
AppleWatch Series 4 Nike+ - This is the ultimate wearable. While Fitbit has some nice entries, the ecosystem of its app developers along with Apple’s design and built in fitness and wellbeing features makes it a class above all others. My favorite AppleWatch apps include Insight Timer for meditation, Strava for workouts when I’m on the move such as hiking, running or biking, Apple’s own Workout app for in the gym, Gyroscope for mood tracking, and Waterminder for quick hydration tracking.
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones - It’s a New York Times Best Seller because it resonates with so many people. I moderate an Atomic Habits Book Club and it’s overwhelming the number of people requesting to join and so inspiring to read each person’s story of much this book has impacted them. I’m a habit expert, and this book gets my highest recommendation.
How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain - “Emotions are not reactions to the world; they are your constructions of the world.” This book upended what I knew about the brain and emotions. Working in behavior design, I know emotions create habits. What this book shows is we assign emotions to the sensations we feel at any given time. We are in control of how we label these feelings. This book gives you the insights needed to take your habit formation to the next level.
Insight Timer - It's a meditation app that has a large library of free guided meditations. While most apps work to guide you through creating a mindfulness practice (at a price), this app has more than enough guides to do it without a fee.
The Key to Building a Meditation Habit - I break down the process of habit formation to help you build a mindfulness practice.
The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance - Through exhilarating stories from the world of adventure athletics, New York Times-bestselling author Steven Kotler introduces readers to the science and power of flow states — those in the zone moments when a person is completely absorbed in the activity, losing all track of time, and acting without deliberate thought. Kotler’s message is these flow states aren’t just reserved exclusively for top athletes as he breaks down the process to help anyone achieve this holistic sensation.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience - If The Rise of Superman piqued your interest in flow, this book is a deep dive in to the positive psychology research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who popularized the concept. His TED Talk, Flow, the secret of happiness, is a little easier to digest.
WaterMinder - Hydration is such an important part of a daily health routine. One of the easiest ways to improve your performance and cognitive functioning is to stay hydrated. Keep a glass of water by your bed and drink it as soon as your feet hit the floor in the morning. It’ll fire up your metabolism, flush out the toxins built up during the night, and fuel your brain. I use the Waterminder app to ensure I’m staying hydrated throughout the day. Waterminder has a great Apple Watch app for quick entry and feedback on your daily intake. It also has a nice widget feature on the iPhone for the same benefit. The app is available for both iOS and Android.
FastHabit - I got interested in the scheduled eating approach of Intermittent Fasting to boost brain functioning and regulate blood sugar. I started with a 12 hour fast from 9pm to 9am, which was pretty much my normal routine and then added a half hour to an hour every day to reach a 16 hour fast. I quickly realized an app would be helpful with this process and tested out several before landing on FastHabit. Life gets in the way of a perfect fast schedule, so I like the apps historical trends to see how I’m averaging over time. Plus it has both an iOS widget and Apple Watch app for start and stop functions.
Lifesum - I track my nutrients and food intake once a year or so and usually for just three months to re-calibrate my eating habits. I've also used MyFitness Pal, but I like Lifesum because it does a nice job of gamification to make the tedious job of entering your food a little more enjoyable.
Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life - This brain health approach to a nutrition book was instantly appealing. The fact is was written by Max Lugavere, who I’ve followed since I met him at TEDActive and watched him on Al Gore's Current TV network, made it all that more intriguing as he explains how his mother’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s led him to dive deeply into the nutrition of brain health. It solidified my desire to try Intermittent Fasting and eliminate sugar wherever possible.
InsideTracker: Combining a blood test with a useful feedback interface for nutrition, InsideTracker has become an annual tool I purchase for myself each year. The report is so useful that my primary care doctor takes a copy each year during my annual physical. I’ve brought in many data reports, and this is the one he finds helpful for our healthspan efforts. They call their report a “selfie from the inside.” What I find useful is to know what I need to do to reach an optimized zone. For example, when you get a blood test with your doctor, they are looking to see if your results are in an acceptable range. InsideTracker reports show supplement and food recommendations to achieve that optimal zone within the acceptable range. You can also do a DNA test for more feedback or if you’ve done a 23andme DNA test, you can import that data. I usually buy two reports a year to see how my nutrition habits are impacting me over time.
Apple HealthKit - Both iOS and Android have great built in tools to measure your movement throughout the day. These apps are where I point people new to tracking their movement.
Strava - When tracking workouts outside the gym, there is no better app. I like the GPS tracking of my routes and its integration with Gyroscope. The Apple Watch app allows me to track heart rate and GPS while leaving my phone at home, and the feedback from my friends helps motivate me for the next workout.
World’s Greatest Stretch - My fitness goals revolve around a long healthspan, and mobility is essential to that objective. After breaking my ankle a couple years ago, I became even more aware of how a lack of mobility affects your entire wellbeing. One mobility technique I use daily in the morning is to do the World’s Greatest Stretch. It opens up my hips and back to ready my body for the day. Ideally I get some more movement exercises in during the day, but at the minimum I do this one. It’s called the World’s Greatest Stretch for a reason.
Sleep Cycle - Forget Adderral, Ritalin, Nootropics, or even Caffeine, the best performance drug is sleep. While I use Sleep Cycle, there are many good sleep apps that help you track your sleep. My partner uses AutoSleep. With Sleep Cycle, I like the nightly check that asks about caffeine intake, stress level, alcohol consumer, and whether I worked out. It’s a good reminder of the habits to develop to help with a good night sleep. There’s some interesting trend reports like sleep quality affected by the moon (I sleep better on a full moon.) and by day of the week (Friday. I must be exhausted by then.). With all tracking tools, if it’s not helping and making you more anxious, stop using it and keep focusing on a consistent evening routine.
CoreSense HRV Sensor - Heart Rate Variability or HRV is one of the most useful biomarkers of overall wellbeing. It’s a single data point that indicates how well you’ve recovered and your readiness to take on the day. It can be a leading indicator that you’re run down and more susceptible to sickness and depression. The AppleWatch is even beginning to figure out how to best utilize HRV as a health indicator. While the AppleWatch does take an HRV reading, its sensor isn’t precise enough yet, which is why I wake up and use the CareSense HRV Sensor on my finger along with the Elite HRV app. During the two minutes it takes to do a reading, I take the opportunity for a meditation moment. When it’s done, I’m left with a gauge and number that lets me know if I need to focus on recovery activities (like more hydration) or kick it in full gear for my workout.
Biohacking Sleep Guide - The Biohackers Handbook is packed with tools and techniques to optimize your life, and the authors offer an excellent sleep guide for free. The guide covers the science of sleep as well as actionable steps such as how to optimize your environment for better sleep, essential techniques for a wind down routine, and how to wake up.
Sleep Is Your Superpower - You have a 40% competitive advantage at retaining learning from the day if you sleep 8 hrs vs those who are sleep deprived, according to research done by Matt Walker, the director of UC Berkeley's Center for Human Sleep Science and author of Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. In this TED Talk, Walker shares the data on how much brain power we lose by being sleep deprived and its implications for diseases such as Alzheimers. "The shorter you sleep, the shorter your life."