It’s rare that an app comes along that from the very first launch seizes my attention. Even more special that it’s an app for mental health. This is Pacifica, a project by Dale Beermann and Chris Goettel in conjunction with psychologists at Stanford University.

When my patients have struggled with completing hourly and daily mood journals, the reasons are invariably threefold.

  • I can’t remember to do it
  • It’s not simple
  • It’s not guided

Pacifica addresses all of these.

The home screen welcomes you at launch with a gorgeous and minimalist layout. At once, the intuitive UI shows you what’s possible. Would you like to record your mood, record your health, or engage in a self-soothing exercise, gently guided by the app?

(1) Mood.

Simply swipe the mood meter. I like that there are only a few moods, but which can be augmented to your preference by adding a supplementary tag. I added “Accomplished”, “Uncomfortable”, “Grateful” to my list.

Mood can be recorded as frequently as every 15 minutes. A stunning visualization of mood patterns is accessible via a tap in the top-left corner of the home screen.

Can’t remember to record? Set Pacifica to gently remind me every day or several times a day. I loved the way the reminders were phrased — sweet and colloquial. On a slow day, it can be like a friend just checking in to say what’s up.

(2) Health.

Record # hours of sleep, quality of diet, and minutes exercised in much the same way as mood. As you meet healthy thresholds, the heart icon on the home screen fills to show your progress.

While not as comprehensive and analytic as your FitBit, Apple Watch, etc., it’s certainly enough to support a degree of mindfulness of your daily routines.

(3) Exercises.

Who loves a good reflection? I do! But it’s not the easiest thing to do. Who wants to deal with endless CBT worksheets and struggling to “empty your mind” while trying not to fall out of your crossed-leg position? Pacifica breaks it down into three categories of activities.

A. Relax. In the tradition of classic mindfulness meditation, Pacifica provides several exercises focussing on breath, visualization, body scan. Best of all, you can set the breath length and hear someone breathing with you. No more wondering if you need to change your breath now. The best results from mindfulness that I’ve received in practice have, after all, been when I’ve done the exercise with a patient daily.

B. Thoughts. This is where we go full-on CBT. Take two minutes to record your thoughts about an anxious experience you’ve had today. Go freestyle. Then Pacifica prompts you to listen to the recording and mark the moments that were Negative and Positive. Each negative moment is then assigned a cognitive distortion. If you’re not sure which distortion is applicable, you can read a simple description of the distortion. Finally, you are invited to make a second recording focussing on a more balanced view of the situation.

C. Experiments. This section guides you through small tests you can run in your daily life, such as learning to confront situations you used to avoid.

And finally, did I mention this app is BEAUTIFUL?

I am incredibly excited to have stumbled across Pacifica and encourage all of you to try it!

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