Apple has a message for you: Remember to breathe. Later this year, the Cupertino, Calif. company is adding a new app to its Apple Watch that walks users through short, deep-breathing programs. The app, appropriately, is called “Breathe.”
Wait, what? Who needs an app to remind us to inhale oxygen? Isn’t this as silly as those apps that remind you to drink water when you’re thirsty?
Not at all. Medical experts have long maintained that deep-breathing exercises can provide a wide range of health benefits, from stress relief to cardiovascular improvements. (During Apple’s presentation, the company used a quote from Deepak Chopra, who has had many of his health claims called into question.)
I know this from experience. Early in my senior year of college, I experienced my first real bout of anxiety. It struck suddenly—so quickly that I thought I was having a heart attack—and refused to fade. Worst of all, there was no clear cause. It was generalized anxiety, the sort of thing that probably afflicts lots of students about to leave the soft, cushy bubble of campus life for the first time.
For months, I would wake up every day, enjoy a few blissful moments of normality, then my heart rate would skyrocket. I felt a bit like Bruce Banner, though I never turned into a hulking green monster. (The experience taught me that Banner’s superpower isn’t turning into the Hulk; it’s staying Banner.) I did my best to go about my day before coming home and trying to calm myself down for a few hours of rest. There were many sleepless nights.
Only three things helped. First, I took full advantage of my university’s mental health professionals, and thank god for them. Second, I started running, because I figured if my mind was racing, my body might as well too. But what was most helpful turned out to be the deep-breathing exercises recommended by one of my professors. It sounds unbelievable that taking a few minutes every now and then to stop what I was doing to focus on taking nice, big breaths helped lift me out of a mental health crisis. But with time, it did.
Anxiety is far less of a problem in my life these days, mostly because I’m proactive about controlling it. But when I feel it coming on, deep breathing is my primary weapon against it. Often I use apps like Headspace or sites like Calm.com to guide my sessions. But now that I’ll have a breathing coach right on my wrist, it’ll make me that less anxious about, well, anxiety.
If Apple’s app takes off, it could make many of its users’ lives much healthier.