According to a meditation teacher, monks at a Zen center in the south of France regard a ringing telephone as a “bell of mindfulness.” When the phone rang, they would pause and take several deep breaths before answering, bringing their attention back to the present moment. Callers were aware that the monks would not answer immediately.
Dealing with excessive stress is a challenge for many people, made worse by the fact that we are not always aware of our stress levels. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we each had our own mindfulness bell to remind us to pause and breathe? And, even better, to demonstrate how to breathe most effectively to alleviate stress?
When I attempted Hear and Now, I was reminded of the telephone bell of mindfulness (free, iOS). It functions as a bell by alerting users via their mobile phone. Following that, users are guided through stress-relieving deep breathing exercises. Following that, the app will inform them of the exercise’s effectiveness.
When a reminder appears, users place their index finger over the camera and flash on their phone, allowing the app to read their heartbeat. Following that, it will guide you through a series of deep breaths. The goal is to replicate as closely as possible the app’s breathing pattern.
Users see and hear a pulse that mimics their heartbeat in soft tones throughout the exercise, in addition to relaxing background sounds and a voice guide. If desired, any or all of the sounds may be silenced.
The app then assigns a grade to your breathing exercise based on changes in heart rate associated with a decrease in stress levels (the more variablity in the rate the better). Users can delve deeper into the data by tracking markers provided by the app, such as their sympathovagal balance index (editor’s note: for those who are feeling a little sympathovagally unbalanced…), or one of several different measures of heart rate variation.
Following the exercise, the data is stored to allow users to track their progress.
- Hear and Now
- Cost: Nothing
- iOS is the operating system.
Can an app truly assist in stress reduction? The Yangon Times team put it to the test as deadlines loomed.
Editor for the weekend
I’ve been using this app for a few days and initially found the reminders mildly annoying. However, as the Weekend deadline drew nearer, pausing to do some deep breathing had a calming effect. At first, the heartbeat sounds are a little strange, but they work!
Editor of Pulse
Although I felt a little silly looking at a stock photo of a “calming river,” the deep breathing did undeniably calm me. However, once I received the results, my stress levels did not appear to have changed significantly. My STI prevalence was 76 percent? Is it now 35%? What does all of this mean? Should I consult a physician? I’m in desperate need of a cigarette.
Reporter for lifestyle publications
The deep breathing helped me feel more at ease, and the nature sounds are soothing, but the heart rate sound is a little distracting. Although I wasn’t overly stressed to begin with, I suppose it could work for those who are.