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3 Free Apps YOU Need Right Now

Shannin-Reference November 14, 2020

These days, it seems like we’re all spending a little extra time on our smartphones. Instead of glancing down to check our alerts every once and awhile, we’re constantly scrolling through our social media timelines, and lingering over news apps. Our lives have changed a lot over this year, and so has our relationship with our phones--they used to distract us from the world, instead of keeping us connected to it. Luckily, there are a few free apps out there which can distract us from all those social media and news apps. Not only that, but when you combine these apps with some of your library’s resources, they can make your day a little brighter--by helping you find the perfect movie to watch, find constellations in the sky, and even calm your mind for a few minutes. 

The Reelgood app is available for iOS and Android, and is designed to help save you from the hours of endless scrolling through your favorite streaming platform. With Reelgood, you can go into the app’s settings and add any and all of the streaming services you subscribe to (like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime,) and search for movies and TV shows across those platforms. Be sure to add Kanopy to as one of your platforms--it’s an on-demand streaming service you can access for free with your library card/eCard number. Kanopy allows you to watch five movies a month. Choices include classic and independent movies, as well as movies in the Criterion Collection (a curated group of "important classic and contemporary films.")

Realgood also shows you what movies and TV shows have been recently added, what’s popular with other users, and even the movies and TV shows with the highest IMDB rating. The app also has some amazing search features, which allow you to search for a specific movie or TV show, and whether it’s available to stream on any platform. If you’re looking for movies or TV shows featuring a certain actor, the app shows everything starring your favorite actor available over each platform. Reelgood also has some additional features--you can let the app know which shows you love, and which ones you’d rather skip. You can also create lists of shows and movies that you want to “Watch Next,” and set up the app to alert you when something from your list appears on one of your platforms. With Reelgood, you can save precious scrolling time, and find the perfect thing to watch much faster. 

If you’re hoping to watch a little less TV (and you don’t mind bundling up and heading outdoors,) the Skyview may be just what you need. Available on iOS and Android, Skyview is a stargazing app that uses your phone’s camera to find and identify stars, constellations, and planets. SkyView also identifies satellites, the position of the International Space Station, and even helps you discover distant galaxies. 

After spending a little time stargazing and identifying what’s in the sky just above your home, you can use your library’s research databases to learn more about the moon and stars. You can find basic information on stars and solar systems by logging in to the World Book Encyclopedia or World Book Kids with your library card/eCard, while Databases like Science in Context feature several articles on astronomy. Science in Context also features articles that explain who discovered the original 48 constellations, and how the original names for constellations like Aquila and Ursa Major changed. You’ll even find directions on how to create your own planetarium using a flashlight and cardboard (which may be a fun project to try with your kids, even in the daytime).

If staring up at the stars or watching movies doesn’t help you relax, Headspace may be able to help. Headspace is a mindfulness app that’s available for iOS and Android, and it’s designed to help you stay in the present moment (rather than getting distracted by your thoughts and surroundings.) Mindfulness meditation can help you deal with everyday issues, and it’s especially helpful when dealing with things like extreme stress, anxiety, and insomnia. The app offers short, guided meditations to help lessen the effects of these problems. Headspace covers the basics of meditation, and includes lots of tips and techniques for beginners. Most of the modules for beginners last between 1-3 minutes, and feature Headspace founder, Andy Puddicombe, walking you through (or “guiding”) you through each step of the meditation.

Headspace also has a paid version of their app, which includes “courses” on things like Letting Go of Stress and Prioritization. After giving Headspace a try, you can also look into several resources available through your library before deciding whether you want to pay for the app. There are several eBooks available through our digital resources--for example, through the Ohio eBook Library, you can place a hold on 10% Happier: How I Tamed The Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris. With Hoopla, you can instantly access Josh Goldstein’s Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening. There are also several eAudiobooks about guided meditation that you can download instantly using Hoopla, like Universal Consciousness: A Guided Meditation by Greg Cetus, and Sue Fuller's Easy Everyday Meditations.

Our relationship with our phone may have changed, and some of us are still adjusting to the extra screen time (and stress.) But our phones still have the power to distract us--and even make our lives a little brighter. We can still check our social media timelines and hold up our phone to the brightest star we see in the sky. Our news apps will still get a lot of use...but we can take a few deep breaths after reading, then grab some popcorn and watch a good movie. With these free apps and the resources available through your favorite library, there are still endless possibilities. 

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