Rewind time about 50 years and a device that monitors your every step and breath might sound a little bit creepy. It's the 21st century, though, friends, and that means you ain't cool unless technology is all up in your business.
I must be at least quasi-cool, because I've been using a fancy pants device called Spire for the past month, and I'm officially hooked.
Now, I've used a number of fitness trackers over the years, including FitBit and most recently Lumo Lift, which monitors your posture. I think both are great options, so this isn't about which fitness tracker is better. I'm just highlighting their differences, and, well, Spire is definitely different.
The device uses research from Stanford's "Calming Technology Lab" to monitor your breathing patterns and state of mind, thereby promoting mindfulness and a true sense of self awareness.
When you open the Spire app — which is connected to your device — you can literally see your breathing pattern. As you inhale, the streaming line bows upward, and as you exhale, the line descends. Breath in quickly or sharply and you'll get an accurate visual of the spike; hold your breath and the stream remains steady.
Even when the app isn't open, it's still tracking your breathing patterns to detect for three primary states of mind: calm, focus and tense. Additionally, it tracks your steps throughout the day.
A calm state of mind occurs when your body is relaxed and your breathing is slower and more regulated. From the Spire blog:
"By slowing your respiration and ensuring inhale and exhale are regulated, you bring your mind into a state of calm, reducing pain, creating cognitive clarity, and even increasing heart rate variability, a measure of vagal tone (parasympathetic activity). What’s powerful is that you can change your respiratory behavior so quickly and easily that it doesn’t distract you from cognitive performance."
A focused state of mind is qualified as stress without any anxiety. From the blog:
"Focus is not a behavior, it’s a temporary mindset – or, a state of mind. It’s a way of engaging with our work, regardless of what it is. It connotes both active engagement and clarity of mind. It isn’t relaxed, yet it’s not stressed-out either...When you’re focused, you’re absorbed in your task without anxiety. When anxiousness is absent, it leaves room for better work by allowing the brain to move from reactivity into decision-making using the prefrontal cortex. This is the pathway to engagement beyond simply ‘work’."
Tense breathing doesn't mean you're angry or you're stressed out, but it does indicate a high-arousal, erratic state of mind. From the blog:
"Scientific studies have shown that changes in respiration patterns alone can predict social, cognitive, and physical stress. Because stress isn’t a binary state, but rather a fluctuating process across emotional valence and intensity, the specific changes in respiration pattern can vary. But there are common indicators."
Those indicators include increased amount of breaths per minute, erratic breath, and a tightening of the abdominal muscles that ultimately restricts deep breathing.
The app will actually notify you if it senses you're in a stressed state of mind for a prolonged period. This "streak," as they call it, must last at least two minutes for them to notify you, but you can adjust this in the app settings.
Within the app, you can access "calm boosting" exercises that'll help you chill out and regulate your breathing. I personally don't always have time to go in and do a quick calm boost (even if they're only 30 seconds long), but feeling the device buzz, and getting that notification on my phone, reminds me to regulate my breathing and relax my body.
There are also exercises that guide you to a focused state of mind, to help you reduce tension, to energize, and to meditate.
You can look back through your history at any time to get a snapshot of your breathing patterns. You can also select the day, and moments from the day, to get more details. You can also go in and add more details, such as the activity you were doing during a particular "streak."
Another recently added feature is Spire's ability to, over time, predict when you may enter a tense state of mind. It's able to do this as it gets used to your particular breathing patterns, and ultimately the goal is to help you curb stress, and either harness or relieve tension.
For those of you looking for a fitness tracker, the device does monitor your steps, as well. I love that Spire notifies me when I've been sedentary for more than an hour, as it prompts me to stand up and move. Also, seeing that 10,000-step goal helps keep me more active through the day, and it's inspired more walks, as well.
- Would you try this kind of tracker?
- Do you find its abilities at all creepy?
- What does your ideal fitness tracker look like?