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Awareness app: Upgrade your mental software

The new app uses a randomly-timed question to track users' emotions throughout various activities and guides the user with brief visual exercises to "become more aware and present."

Not to be confused with the Awareness! app (note exclamation point) that filters outside noises into your headphones, the new Awareness app (note lack of exclamation point) asks a simple question--What are you feeling right now?--at random intervals.

The prompt is made via a "gentle reminder sound" that will "intercept" (as opposed to "interrupt") the user's routine, unless of course there is a scheduled iCal meeting (perhaps they should consider enabling users to block out times for such activities as sleep and sex, but for now the simplest workaround is to simply schedule said activities on iCal, or maybe even turn one's phone off).

Users can choose from 115 possible answers that are grouped into eight mood categories and one sensation category ("body feelings," such as tired, sore, etc.). Once the user answers the feeling question, "brief video clips guide you back to the present moment," and "400 inspirational quotes tied to what you are feeling" are displayed, presumably not all at once.

Daily, weekly, monthly, and annual reports help assess which activities lead to which feelings, arming the user with the data necessary to "distract yourself from unpleasant feelings."

Best of all, there are no ads, and the app works regardless of network connection. So yes, even when you are out at the cabin trying to get away from it all, you can still be, well, intercepted.

It's easy to poke a little fun at the app and its corresponding Web site, which arrive on the app scene on the heels of similar happiness apps and was developed by Ronit Herzfield, a psychotherapist in New York who calls herself "ambassador of the heart."

Ronit Herzfield

But it's getting rave reviews. Among them, Arianna Huffington says: "This is wonderful...I have been asking people to begin thinking about how to use technology in order to help us to disconnect from technology and connect with ourselves."

Presumably she sees the irony. But while initial reports on one's actual moods might be as alarming as initial reports when one first starts tracking one's budget, Awareness has great potential to bring attention to how people handle various situations.

The app is compatible with the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, and requires iOS 4.1 or later. It's available via iTunes for $3.99, and is rated 12+ for "Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References."