When it comes to health, we know that some numbers matter more than others — it's crucial to know what your blood pressure is, or whether or not you have any vitamin deficiencies, or if there's a lump you need to get checked out. Yet, the same is true for mental health — an issue that Hear and Now, a new app that measures your heartbeat to let you know exactly how stressed you are and then guides you through a series of deep breathing exercises to get you back to a healthy rate, is hoping to address. It's an amazing way to cope with your anxiety better, especially for those of you who take comfort in having facts in front of you (rather than just trying to gauge whether or not you can feel well, you can quantify it).
This is not an entirely new technology. Hear and Now plays on a very common type of brain wave measured approach many therapists take. (Patients will be hooked up to monitors that measure their stress levels, and will have to watch a screen to see how they go up and down — the name of the game is to calm yourself down so much that you "win," which teaches you how to voluntarily de-stress on your own.) It's hard to focus on anything but why you're stressed when you're really feeling terrible, which honestly makes sense. Yet, there are ways to manage this better, and Hear and Now may just be the super quick (and very convenient) thing that can help you simmer down in more heated moments.
The app utilizes your phone's camera flash to measure your heart rate and determine your stress level. You place your finger over it, and the flash illuminates your skin to allow the app to detect pulses (your heart rate). It then calibrates, and guides you through a series of eight deep breathing exercises, evaluating how your pulse shifts as you complete each of them. In the end, you're given an "overall breathing quality" assessment, which tells you how well you followed the exercise. It will also let you know about your entropy level, which is related to how stressed you are. "Approximate Entropy measures the complexity, unpredictability of the heart rate," the app explains. "High values of entropy indicate a rich and complex heart activity, which indicates good health and low stress."
As we already know, deep breathing can counteract the body’s fight-or-flight response, and while it can often be difficult to just simply breathe when you're in the heat of a very intense moment, apps like this are on-the-go tools to wind you down, and teach you how to self-regulate over time. To optimize this, the app also includes optional music and guided meditation voiceovers, if you're looking to enhance the relaxation process. You need headphones to listen to the audio, but if you don't have them on hand, you can just follow the movement of an expanding/contracting circle on the screen to regulate your breath. Isn't technology grand?
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