The three apps reviewed here represent some of the tools interactive technology offers to facilitate mindfulness. Spire, a wearable device and companion app, enables you to monitor your active, calm, and focused moods throughout the day. Pause uses a gamelike interface to facilitate focused attention. Finally, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard’s app, Imagine Clarity, combines video-based practice sessions with a meditation timer and inspirational teachings.
While most wearable tech products sense only activity, Spire provides a more holistic picture of your day. Its technology detects breathing, the only bodily function we have conscious control over that both reflects and impacts our state of mind. The idea behind Spire is that this bodily rhythm reflects the rhythm of the mind, and if we can be aware of and change our breathing, we can impact our mental state in turn. The beautifully designed and comfortable device resembles a rubbery stone that’s clipped to the waistband or to a bra; a suite of sensors inside detects the expansion and contraction of the abdomen, and other sensors, akin to those in a fitness tracker, detect steps, activity, and body position. The device funnels this data via Bluetooth to the companion mobile app, where algorithms translate it into three categories: calm, focus, and activity. You set daily goals for each category and view your progress in the app as the three leaves of a clover graphic gradually fill in with color. Spire can be set to “buzz” when it detects tension (erratic, elevated respiratory rate) or a streak in any of the three areas (focus is marked by fast but consistent breathing, calm by slower breathing). In addition, the app offers “boosts,” short recordings to inspire calm, focus, and energy, as well as guided meditations and a real-time graphic showing your breath wave.
Much as I wanted to like Spire and appreciated its emphasis on balance over activity, I found that it ultimately caused more stress than it alleviated. It was one more device to remember to charge and grab in the morning (though a charge does last seven days, and it’s washer-proof to boot). It didn’t always read my breathing accurately—or maybe it’s smarter than I am!—and I had to look at my phone for interpretation every time it buzzed, which defeated the purpose. Ultimately, I didn’t find Spire’s data all that insightful: I discovered that I already knew when I was tense, active, calm, and focused—though perhaps one benefit of wearing a blinking smart-stone was the reminder to trust my own intuition.
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