If you've got an Apple Watch you might be surprised to find it asking you to Breathe, a seemingly innocuous activity that most people (well, at least most living people) perform unassisted all day long. But the seemingly ordinary activity of breathing is now part of the Apple Watch general health routine thanks to the new Breathe app.
Putting cynicism aside, the act of paying attention to your breathing - taking deep breaths in a slow and measured fashion - can be extremely beneficial. And even if you don't see any physical health benefits, it's a good way to take a break from the stress of the day.
With Apple Breathe you set a breathing session, either one or five minutes. The app then coaches you through the session, as you practise breathing. Apple Breathe monitors your heart rate, and provides a summary of the breathing sessions.
What is Breathe for Apple Watch: How to use Apple's new Breathe mindfulness app
Apple Breathe is installed as a default app on the Apple Watch as part of watchOS 3. You can open Apple Breathe at any time, but it will prompt you to begin a focused breathing session every five hours. Tap Breathe to start a session, or Snooze if you haven't got time right now and would like to practice breathing and mindfulness later.
Here's how to start a Breathe session.
- Open Apple Breathe.
- Rotate the Digital Crown to choose between 1 and 5 minutes (between 7 and 35 breaths).
- Tap Start to begin the session.
- The App then guides you through deep breaths. By default the app offers several deep breaths in one minute. One breath lasts roughly eight and a half seconds.
- A circular graphic on the Apple Watch expands along with taps on the wrist. You slowly inhale along with the graphic and the words "Now inhale."
- The screen then displays: "Be still, and bring your attention to your breath." Hold your breath.
- When the graphic starts to condense, you slowly breathe out.
- When the taps start again, breathe in.
- Repeat until the app pings and tells you to stop.
A summary screen is displayed at the end of the session.
What is Breathe for Apple Watch: How to turn off Apple Breathe on the Apple Watch
If you're tired of your Apple Watch reminding you to take a breath you can turn off Breathe notifications.
Here's how to turn off Notifications for Breathe:
- Open the Watch app on your iPhone (the one paired with your Apple Watch).
- Tap Breathe.
- Tap Breathe Reminders.
- Tap None.
Now you'll no longer get reminders to use the Breathe app on your iPhone.
What is Breathe for Apple Watch: Mindfulness and breathing
Mindfulness and breathing are increasingly seen as an essential component of mental wellbeing. The NHS recommends mindfulness as a way of dealing with stress, anxiety and depression.
The act of regular meditation has been proved to have several long-term benefits.
- Long-term meditation has been associated with increased grey matter density in the brain stem. So it's good for your mental ability.
- Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness, which, in turn, makes you more capable of resisting pain. So it's good for physical as well as mental pain.
- Mindfulness can help people with ADHD, anxiety, depression and other psychological symptoms. Meditation alters the structure of the brain network, which helps manage psychological symptoms.
Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says: "It's easy to stop noticing the world around us. It's also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living 'in our heads' - caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour.
"[An] important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment. It's about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives."