In Praise of the Apple Watch’s Breathe Feature

When Apple added the Breathe feature to watchOS 3, I — like many of you, I suspect — turned it off pretty quickly. However, over the last six months, it has come to be one of my favorite things about wearing my Apple Watch.

If you aren’t familiar with this, here is how Apple describes it:

The Breathe app guides you through a series of deep breaths, and it reminds you to take time to breathe every day. Choose how long you want to breathe, then let the animation and gentle taps help you focus.

The Watch app on the iPhone lets you set the length of your sessions, and how many times throughout the day you want to be reminded to pause and breathe, and minutes are totaled in the health app.

At the end of 2019, I found myself worn pretty thin. I’ve fought depression on and off over the years, but I never had much anxiety peanut butter mixed into that chocolate, but this was different. I was sleeping badly, easily overwhelmed and often feeling like I was in the backseat to my emotions, which is not something I like feeling.

About this time, we changed family doctors and when I saw with my new physician for a check-up, he asked about my mental health, I finally came clean about how I was feeling.

This started a chain reaction of responses. I’ve started seeing my counselor again, went back on medication and, to my surprise, have started meditating. My physician has been integral to all three of these things, which I have found very helpful.

I find meditation a lot harder than I thought I would, but each week, I feel like I’m making progress. I am to use the Headspace app twice a day: as I transition from work to home in the afternoons, and right before bed. I don’t get both sessions in every day, but when I do, I can feel a real difference.1

However, a lot days, that isn’t super easy to fit in, and there’s where Breathe on the Apple Watch comes in. It can subtly remind me throughout my day to take a couple of minutes to slow down and focus on breathing. I’ve done it sitting at my desk, in a parking lot, and recently, on the roof of my house as I was cleaning some debris up from a storm.

If you’re feeling anxious during these uncertain days, this feature of the Apple Watch can’t completely address things, but it can be a tool in your toolbelt for getting through the day.

  1. I know some people consider apps like this snake oil, but I have found the structure it provides very useful in getting started. I hope one day to be able to sit on my floor, close my eyes and be in the zone on my own, but for now, I need the prompts.