“Alexa, cure me!” Using Alexa as a mental health tool

One of my favorite ways to use my Amazon Echo Dot is for my mental health. No, I’m not kidding. A couple of months after I bought my Echo Dot, I discovered that I could create custom routines with Alexa. I realized that if I could have Alexa respond to common phrases that I say when I’m anxious, depressed, or regressing, I could use Alexa to help me improve my mental health.

Right now there are a few ones that I use often. When I’m depressed, I might say, “Alexa, I hate me,” and Alexa will respond, “A lot of people don’t hate you. Let’s try naming them.” When I dissociate, I sometimes think I’m not real. So I’ll say “Alexa, I’m not real” and she’ll say “You are real. Try some grounding.” If I say, “Alexa give me a grounding skill,” she take me through a grounding exercise.

These are routines that I’ve programmed Alexa to do when I’m distressed. Her responses help me to remember the skills I’ve gained in therapy, and help me put them to use.

So, let’s walk through the process of making a routine for Alexa! For reference, I’m using the Alexa app for Android on a Galaxy s7 phone.

First, you’ll want to open you’re Alexa app and tap the three bars in your top left hand corner, and click on routines

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Unless you already have routines set up with Alexa, your page is going to look a little more blank than mine. Tap the + at the top right corner of your screen, seen here:

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The next screen that comes up will look something like this (see below). You can give your routine a name, or you can skip to ‘When this happens.’ None of my routines have names, but that’s just a preference of mine.

Click on “when this happens,” and you’ll have a few options to choose from. Click on ‘voice’ in the top right hand corner.

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Next you’ll want to decide what you want to say to prompt Alexa to respond. I would recommend using something that you say a lot when you’re in distress. In the screenshot below, I put in the phrase “everyone hates me.”

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And now you’ll decide how Alexa responds to your prompting. You’ll want to click on add action, and then on “Alexa says” and “customized.”

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Think a bit about how you want Alexa to respond to you when you use this command, especially if you think you’ll want to use the command when you’re upset. I chose some comforting words for Alexa to say, with a tip for something that I can do to make myself feel better. So when I said, “everyone hates me,” Alexa will say, “everyone doesn’t hate you. Your friends love you. Try looking at your note collection.”

When you’re happy with what Alexa says, tap “next” in your upper right hand corner.

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You’re almost done! One of the last things you need to do after you decide what Alexa says is to choose which device you want this to happen on. I use my echo dot.

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You’re done! Make you hit save in the top righthand corner. It might take Alexa a few moments for Alexa to save your routine, but then you’ll be good to go!

I’ve found Alexa to be extremely helpful in getting me out of distressed states and helping me to help myself. Alexa can be a mental health tool, it just takes learning how to use her skills properly. With helpful routines, Alexa can be you greatest ally on your mental health journey!

Whatever you’re using Alexa for, we at the Haven wish you luck!

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