I’ll admit it, when Apple first announced the Breathe app at WWDC 2016, I might have scoffed a little. But after getting a closer look at how it works, I’m a little more convinced of its potential.
While the practice of mindfulness/meditation/deep breathing can sound like a load of new age hipster hogwash at times, it does have health benefits (except maybe if you're doing it in a pollution-heavy location like Beijing). Let's hear from an expert that's not Deepak Chopra. Dr. Herbert Benson, Director Emeritus, Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (phew, that's a mouthful) has this to say:
“Taking a moment every day to do some deep breathing can reduce stress, calm the body and mind as well as having long term health benefits. Deep breathing is one of the ways to evoke the Relaxation Response, which is the opposite reaction to stress.”
More importantly, there are common medical conditions related to stress - anxiety, depression and high blood pressure to name a few - that deep breathing can help alleviate.
My other less qualified but experienced source also shared the same sentiments.
And you know who else would approve of this zen move? Steve Jobs, a known practitioner of mindfulness.
As a regular stressed out Singaporean, I’ve tried to find peace of mind via floating in a sensory deprivation tank and using meditation apps like Headspace. Voice guidance only distracts me and trying to meditate without a guide leaves me without an objective. Breathe has the potential to bypass those two obstacles in my path to reach peak zen.
One significant feature is the haptic feedback. Quite unlike the Watch's other touch patterns, it's more like a piano keys effect that starts fast and tapers slow towards the end to mimic your lungs filling up to capacity. It ends and that’s your cue to exhale. Feel the taps building and that's your cue to inhale along with them. You can also adjust the intensity of the feedback to make sure it doesn't jolt you out of your zen.
Should you prefer to keep your eyes open, focusing on the unfurling flower can be rather mesmerising. How about a Hypnosis app next, Apple?
Like most Apple products, Breathe prides itself on its simplicity.
The only choice you need to make is how long you want to deep breathe for. Rotate the Digital Crown to choose from one to five minutes and then allow the Watch to guide you through the motions. Following each session, your heart rate will be shown. It's not an exact science, but should do the trick of letting you know if that short session of deep breathing worked in making you a little less frazzled.
Out of all the activity-related features on the Watch, I only ever use the reminder to stand on a daily basis as it requires the least from me. Run? No thanks. Stand every two hours? That I can do. Breathe is built on that same sort of undemanding principle - doing a little to help you a lot.
Just like how actress Lindsay Lohan has "breathe" tattooed on the inside of her wrist, it's a little helpful reminder to stay sane without the permanent commitment. So even if Breathe really isn't a revolutionary app, its stripped-down approach makes sense sitting on your wrist and could make the Watch a little more indispensable.
Will the habit stick? I can't say for sure without living with it; I'll just have to find out when watchOS 3 hits my wrist later this year. But from what I've seen of it, it has definitely potential because it's always the simple things you keep returning to, time and time again.
Hey Apple, maybe consider this for a Breathe app face?