[App Friday] Finch’s gamification of self-care is hit and miss

[App Friday] Finch’s gamification of self-care is hit and miss

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, mental health disorders, particularly anxiety and depression, were the leading causes of the global health burden, according to a Lancet study.

The situation has only gotten worse since then, with multiple lockdowns, loss of income, isolation, separation from family and friends, loss of loved ones, financial problems and reduced general mobility, among other problems, exacerbating mental illnesses.

To top it off, access to medical interventions has become limited, especially for non-COVID-19 related illnesses, as hospitals around the world focus more on treating COVID-19 positive patients.

Suffice it to say that globally, mental health has declined on average since the pandemic to levels last seen during World War II.

Although there is no substitute for therapy/counseling, medication, psychiatric diagnosis and professional intervention, there are some things one can do in terms of self-care, such as exercises breathing, practicing gratitude, actively listening to one’s thoughts, reflecting – basically, just “checking in” with yourself and managing your mental health on a day-to-day basis.

There are plenty of apps like Wysa, Woebot, Bloom, and Aloe Bud that simplify the self-care process by sending notifications and reminders at regular intervals so you don’t lose sight of what you want to achieve.

Bullfinch is another such app.

The app, available on the Google Play Store and App Store, has over 1 million downloads and a 4.9/5 star rating on the Play Store.

Finch basically helps you take care of your mental well-being by holding you accountable to a virtual pet.

As you reach “goals” you set for yourself, like drinking a few glasses of water a day or writing down something you’re grateful for, the app gives you energy points that you can use to do various activities on the app as well as help your pet grow.

The app

The first thing you do when you log into the app is pick a name for your pet, along with their pronouns, and then quickly choose a few basic goals you’d like to achieve each day. This might include drinking X glasses of water a day, doing two minutes of breathing exercises and checking your mood every morning when you wake up, putting the phone down 30 minutes before bed, practicing gratitude, send a kind message to a loved one, and reflect on the day.

You can choose from a number of lenses, as well as create your own.

Once logged in, you will be able to see your pet and daily goals on the home screen. A button at the bottom of the screen brings up a whole list of self-care activities to do, and it’s the main toggle button you’ll come back to often.

The list of activities offers many options such as:

  • First aid: includes breathing and observation exercises that you can do during panic attacks, increased anxiety, waves of grief, etc.
  • Acts of Kindness: You can add your friends or family members if they’re on the app, or add anyone you care about (even if they don’t have the app), give them compliments everyday or tell them something you’re grateful for. You can also keep a kindness diary or make a list of people you wish you were nicer to.
  • Soundscapes: Listen to soothing rainfall, ocean waves, the sound of swaying trees, and more for a set duration.
  • Breathe: helps you quickly do some breathing exercises to calm down or wake you up
  • Movements: includes morning stretches to start the day, midday exercises to get out of a lull and nighttime movements to relax for the day
  • Quiz: Helps ‘check’ anxiety levels, understand your relationship to your body image and find out if you like yourself, if you’re optimistic about your future and how sleep affects your life

There are also journaling prompts you can use to write down your thoughts and feelings, and fume at your pet finch if you need to.

Every activity you complete on Finch gives you energy points, which you can then use to send your pet on adventures and level up. Adventures help your pet learn new things, develop their own personality traits and grow, and doing more and more activities when they go on adventures helps them get home sooner.


Finch’s approach to self-care is interesting, though it doesn’t stand out when it comes to gamification.

The interface is fluid, devoid of glitches and quite aesthetic. You’re really spoiled for choice when it comes to the activities you can do on the app, which is quite refreshing compared to other popular apps that only allow you to do three to four activities, at most.

In the brief time this app was tested, it managed to make me really like my virtual pet, Waffles (pronouns: she/her), which in turn encouraged me to some of the enlisted activities.

There is a paid version – Finch Pro, which is quite expensive compared to its competitors, but you can still do more than enough on the free version.

However, what could potentially deter someone from the app is the clutter.

There’s no walkthrough on the app when you first log in, and with the myriad of options available, it’s too important a feature to rule out. The app doesn’t explain how energy points work, what the “adventure” tangent means, what “rainbow stones” are, how you’re supposed to level up, or even what the different on-screen options allow you to do this.

There are too many elements on the app for the creators to leave it up to users to figure out for themselves – and because you feel so lost, it’s hard to take an instant liking to the app, or even to be invested in that of your pet. growth.

Initially, the few times I came back to the application, it was for its activities. The breathing exercises are really interesting, the gratitude journal really helps bring you back into the moment, the “movements” feature with its simple exercises is encouraging, and the rant option is super helpful.

There’s a bit of a learning curve, and the new random items that appear as you complete different levels don’t let you get too comfortable with the app.

Compared to Wysa, which has a simple chat interface where you can set up reminders and notifications, Finch is pretty busy.

But as someone who grew up in the days of the Tamagotchis, taking care of a pet, even if it’s virtual, is a good incentive to do self-care activities. Definitely a must download even if it’s for a short time.

Lance B. Holton