Tech for Calm: Great Apps for Relaxation

At the end of a rushed, packed work week, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by my never-ending to-do list. When this happens, I like to do one of two things: read a great novel or create some artwork. So this weekend I chose the latter and went in search of some relaxing and artistic apps for my iPhone.

My search reminded me that technology isn’t just about productivity, information-management, or efficiency, but it can also help you feel as if time has slowed for relaxation and renewal. It reminded me that technology can be as connected to our emotions as it is to getting things done. So don’t expect the apps below to be action-packed visceral experiences–I was aiming for relaxation, calm, smiles, easy-to-use, and preferably free. Here’s what I found:

FlowerGarden (free) (iPhone, iPad) – You can grow flowers in several pots from a variety of free and paid seed packages. The flowers grow right before your eyes–some grow completely within a few hours. I believe that they do not die if you forget to water them, they just wilt so I appreciate that this is not one of those games that requires a ton of time and worry. My favourite part is that the flowers wave from side to side when I tilt my phone. It is somehow calming and entertaining at the same time. Lasting impression: Happiness.

Talking Larry the Bird (paid) (iPhone, iPad) – I haven’t tried this app, but the huge number of positive reviews makes me want to! A very cute bird responds to being poked and touched, and will repeat what you say or whistle. It sounds like laugh-out-loud entertainment. Lasting impression: Hillarious.



PlasmaGlobe (free) (iPhone, iPod, iPad) – A plasma sphere that you have probably seen in your high school science class, with a game twist. This one makes cool zapping sounds when you touch it and it’s also a game where you try to zap some small spheres that float by. It’s not difficult–just fun. Lasting impression: Zap!



Swirlcity (free) (iPad only) – This app allows you to draw lines made with particles with your fingers, and the particles attract or repell each other so they move as you draw. It adds an element of unpredictability to your doodles. Lasting impression: Physics and particles.




Irogami (free) (iPad only) – A drawing app in which the lines you draw are endless stacks of origami paper instead of ink lines. It’s simple and different. Lasting impression: Let’s learn to fold origami.


MirrorPaint (free) (iPhone, iPod, iPad) – This app takes me back to the Spirograph from my childhood. It mirrors your strokes and creates geometric Spirograph-like images. You can select the number of mirrors as well as watch the creation of pre-programmed patterns. Lasting impression: Spirograph!



Fingerpaint (free) (iPhone, iPod, iPad) – Unlike other finger-painting apps, this one features paint that has a smeary, smudgy texture. Although it doesn’t act like real paint, it makes me think of the way paint behaves when you use your hands to spread it on the page. Lasting impression: Digital messes are just as fun!



Fluid (free) (iPhone, iPod, iPad) – This app is visually like running your fingers through water and looking at the rocks below through the distortion. It includes calming background music. The only thing missing for me would be the sound of the water when I touch it. This is ultra-simple but calming and fun too. Lasting impression: Calming stream.



Bubble Harp (paid) (iPhone, iPod, iPad) – This incredibly innovative app connects sound to your movements on the screen. The app was originally released as interactive art in galleries and museums. The mixture of sound and visual output is both exciting and calming. It is an incredibly unique experience that can keep me entertained for a long time! Lasting impression: Mind-blowing.



Soundrop (free) (iPhone, iPod, iPad) – This app is a lot of fun and very simple to use. You place sticks underneath a small hole that drops come out of. When the drops hit the sticks, they bounce and make noise, becoming a work of music. You can remove sticks and add more at any time, which magically changes the music. Lasting impression: Tickles my ears.



Beatwave (free) (iPhone, iPod, iPad) – This is a basic step sequencer that you can use to create very pleasant-sounding loops without knowing anything about beats and music. You can get quite complex about it, but even when used simply, it is a fun and relaxing experience.  Lasting impression: Light and fun.

Have you used any of the apps above? What do you think of them? Please share your thoughts and recommendations!