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The App That Wants You to Treat Self-Care Like a Garden

In challenging times, regular reminders to take care of yourself can be a big help to your mental health.

Aloe Bud sends helpful
reminders from yourself, to yourself.

Designed out of pure necessity of their own mental health struggles; Aloe Bud creator, Amber Discko searched Apple's App Store for something, anything to help with remembering basic self-care. Discko, whose pronouns are they/them, hustled to stay afloat. But their emotional well-being was slipping through the cracks. They weren't leaving the house, and summoning the effort to do basic things like staying hydrated and eating a full meal felt like a battle. So, they got to work on an app that could help them, and anyone else feeling lost, start to heal.

Discko created it for people struggling with mental illness, chronic illness, ADHD, or people who just forget to floss their teeth before calling it a night.

“I want to show that it’s casual because it has to be,” Discko says, “You’re not going to want something if it’s in your face.”

In contrast to other health-minded reminder apps, like the Activity app on the Apple Watch, Aloe Bud’s nudges are especially soft-edged: “You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain. Ready to shine?” Compare this to what an Apple Watch wearer would see on their wrist: “Make it happen. Yesterday, your Move ring didn’t get enough love. Let’s get it closed today.” You can see the contrast; Aloe Bud’s notifications feel more like texts from your Deadhead aunt than shouts from your high school gym teacher commanding you to take another lap.

Aloe Bud sends you helpful reminders from yourself to yourself.

It’s not meant to and should not replace mental health care or the support of loved ones, but it is a valuable—and free—tool to help bridge gaps in making self-care as accessible and personal as possible.

In August of 2017, Aloe Bud launched a Kickstarter project for the beta version of the iOS app. The name Aloe Bud was chosen as a nod to the aloe plant, which is harvested for its medicinal properties, and for its apt imagery of a growing bud on its way to full bloom. “We’re all unaware of our own magnificence until we have someone shine that light on us.”

Discko developed the app with the help of the team at software studio Lickability with the aim of making it approachable and welcoming. When you open the app, you’re greeted with a grid of light-toned icons, all in a pixel-art design you’d see in games like Super Mario World, along with an action verb below each one. You’ll see things like a watermelon with sparkles coming off the top, with the word Fuel underneath, as a reminder to munch on something at times when you might struggle with remembering to eat.