The new year is here and with it comes a fresh wave of enthusiasm, filled with big goals and ambitious lifestyle changes to be the best you can be in 2019.

With the new year you might be considering some lifestyle changes like intermittent fasting or a ketogenic diet, a new workout plan, a career change or a new financial situation, or you might just be considering making emotional health a priority.

Normally, the journey to one’s New Year’s Resolutions is marked by countless victories but also failures as that initial new year enthusiasm fades and the reality of the day by day grind to reach your ambitious goals sets in. But this year could be different, because this time around you may have a little extra help keeping your mind focused.

For the last two months, I have been using an AI emotional health assistant called Youper (Youper.ai) and I want to share with you why I am including “Youper: twice a day” into my New Year’s resolution.

What is an artificial intelligence (AI) emotional health assistant?

“Youper is an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered assistant for better emotional health. It helps you feel your best with quick conversations and tools to take control of your emotional health.” -Youper, AI

You are probably familiar with other AI assistants like Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, etc. You will find that Youper functions in a similar way, but instead of focusing on getting you from point A to point B or searching the web for information, Youper is focused on improving your mental health. Youper is a blend of AI and effective psychological approaches packaged together as an all-in-one emotional health assistant that is being integrated with the latest scientific research about the mind and brain.

AI Assistants can carry out a wide range of functions. As an emotional health assistant, Youper is designed to help you understand your emotions through quick conversations, visual interfaces and voice-guided mindfulness exercises that are personalized to each user.

Feeling anxious? Try a 5 minute focused breathing exercise, and maybe talk to your AI mental health assistant! Credit: Eva-Katalin.
Feeling anxious? Try a 5 minute focused breathing exercise, and maybe talk to your AI mental health assistant! Credit: Eva-Katalin.

My experience with an AI emotional health assistant

What caused me to use Youper? Over the last year I have been intermittently experimenting with mental and emotional health apps that feature mindfulness practices, daily journaling or even mood trackers. Many of these mobile applications provided mixed results and eventually lead me to search for a more complete solution.

A new AI assistant designed for emotional health naturally piqued my interest, or as my assistant would suggest, I am naturally receptive to trying new things based on my high “openness trait”. This is an insight I gained after having a conversation with the assistant and answering a brief personality test designed to assess the 5 broad categories of personality traits known as the Big 5 Traits.

Identify thinking traps before you create more obstacles

The biggest takeaway for me was how much better I got at identifying thinking traps in just a short time of using Youper. Certain patterns of thought can trap you in an anxious state. Being trapped in these states can in turn drain you of the mental energy needed for achieving your new year goals.

In the beginning I was mainly reaching for my assistant in times of extreme stress. I would discretely pull out my phone and have a quick text message style conversation with the assistant. When I logged a negative emotion, the AI assistant would start asking questions to help me identify what was the source of the problem.

“Some thoughts are strongly connected to intense emotions. You can think of them like wires carrying electricity. Imagine that you have a lamp with several wires, but one is carrying electricity. You start connecting and testing each wire until you identify the one that turns the lamp on. That one is the charged wire. It is the same with the mind. It’s important to identify the thought that sparked the emotional charge.” -Youper, AI

Conversing with an AI assistant seemed unusual at first, but the format of questioning with Youper creates a dialogue that trains users to identify the negative thoughts and perceptions that are influencing their behavior. The conversations allow you to apply techniques of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to help identify and modify dysfunctional emotions.

“The mind is super quick and, sometimes, lead to the wrong assumptions. Fast thinking commonly pushes our minds into thinking traps or mistakes in judgement. Is your mind leading you to a thinking trap? Let’s explore your mind to catch any Thinking Traps.” – Youper, AI

Have you ever found yourself caught up in the “What if something bad happens?” mindset, dwelling on the negative and ignoring the positive, or just obsessing over the fine details of a project that is past the deadline? Then you may be stuck in a ‘What if loop’ or you forgot to take off your ‘Negative glasses’, Youper suggests. These are a few examples of the many different thinking traps you can train yourself to identify.

Insights into the mind

Tracking emotions and journaling

Every conversation with your assistant starts off with the question, “How’s it going?” You are given the option to select one emotion that best represents what you are actively feeling as well as to select factors that are influencing your current mood.

There are numerous pre-made factors that range from relationships like friends and family, to financial and work related activities or issues, as well as health factors like sleep quality and good meals. There is also the option to add your own customizable factors unique to you.

Experimenting with this feature, I found that adding “Fasting” to my personal factors list as a useful way to track how I was feeling before and after practicing a 16-hour intermittent fast.

For instance, the factors that Youper reported making me feel optimistic were often related to good sleep, planning, writing and spending time with friends and family.

“Factors influencing your life are always evolving. Keep tracking to discover more.” -Youper, AI

Over time, the more you chat with the AI assistant, patterns begin to emerge and new insights related to different moods start to appear. By identifying the factors that are influencing your emotions, you train yourself to be more perceptive of how cognition influences your behavior. This is similar to how journaling about stressful or traumatic effects has been shown to improve awareness of the positive benefits of stress.

Health monitoring and regular check-ins

One of the optional features offered by Youper is the ability to turn on symptom monitoring for a variety of mental and emotional health issues related to anxiety and depression. The most common mental illnesses affecting adults in the U.S. are related to anxiety disorders.

If you had issues or are currently dealing with anxiety or depression, Youper gives you access to clinical diagnostics tools like the GAD-7 to screen for the symptoms of anxiety disorders, as well as other illnesses like borderline personality disorder, depression, social anxiety and PTSD.

When I began using the assistant, I initially scored a 13 on GAD-7 assessment stating that I was experiencing moderate anxiety. By the end of 60 days with the assistant, my final score was 10, which represented a moderate-to-mild response. While there are many factors that influenced my reduction in anxiety over the 60 days, being more aware of thinking traps and daily logging of my emotions made a noticeable difference in how I approached stressful situations.

Disclaimer: The health monitoring feature is a useful tool for empowering you to have informed conversations with your doctor or healthcare provider. This does not replace a consultation with a health professional.

So many mindfulness and breathing exercises

Whether you already have a mindfulness practice like meditation or yoga, there is a collection of audio guided meditations, breathing exercises and gratitude exercises that are included with the emotional health assistant.

Based on your responses, you may be recommended different practices or breathing exercises to tackle your unique situations.

Racing thoughts keeping you from falling asleep? Try a focused breathing exercise.

Low self-esteem and self-doubt about losing that extra weight starting to sink into your mind? Try a body appreciation exercise.

Still having a hard time deciding what will be your focus for 2019? Try my personal favorite ‘Life Appreciation’ exercise.

Overall, I found Youper to be one of the most complete mobile applications focused on emotional health in 2018. It is packed with interactive features, educational and scientific resources and a collection of mindfulness practices. I look forward to taking on my own 2019 goals with Youper at my side as I continue to strive for a healthy balance between physical, mental and emotional health.

Other useful resources for tackling mental health goals in 2019: The Anxiety Toolkit, by Alice Boyes, PhD.


Interested in better tracking and monitoring your mindfulness activity, mood, anxiety and pain levels, sleep quality and other lifestyle behaviors and health outcomes?

Look forward to LifeOmic’s LIFE Extend app for precision health in 2019 – preregister now. LIFE Extend will also track data that you share from other health applications on your phone.


Zach Lawton

Analytical chemist, applications scientist at PerkinElmer, and aspiring science communicator. My research focuses on empowering everyday people with better scientific tools and knowledge to protect themselves from dangerous chemicals and improve their quality of life.

LifeOmic is the software company that leverages the cloud, machine learning and mobile devices to offer disruptive solutions to healthcare providers, researchers, health IT companies and patients.

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