Stress is making our heads a scattered mess and among some of the many suggested remedies is forcing ourselves to unplug from our devices. But one idea actually assigns meditative properties to our iPhones.
A new app simply called Pause use interactive graphics and soothing sounds to concentrate the mind on the present with the goal of providing relaxation and renewed focus. The app invites the user to place a finger on a slowly pulsating splotch of color and follow it as it moves slowly on screen, rewarding you with pleasant sounds, like chirping birds.
Some 18 million people, including nearly 1 million children, practiced meditation in 2014, according the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. The American Institute of Stress flat out says stress is killing us. According to their studies, one in five Americans feel extreme stress and nearly half say they feel more stress than they did five years ago.
It is the kind of debilitating stress that led Peng Cheng, founder of the Danish mental wellness company PauseAble, to team up with the digital product studio UsTwo to create the PAUSE app for the iPhone.
“Everything started with my own severe stress and depression to the extent I could not work,” Cheng explains in a video promoting the app. “I tried everything I could find but realized I had to participate in my own healing process. Most of our stress exists in our head and absorbs all of our attention. To break this process, I needed to focus on what is physical and tangible and actively put my attention in the moment.”
PAUSE attempts to do that with a color shifting and mesmerizing blob that sort of looks like it got detached from a lava lamp. Focus on it, gently follow it with your finger and you are rewarded with affirming words and pleasant sounds. Get distracted and the breathing blob disappears. You can then start over.
Use with ear buds to focus the hearing and you will be prompted to close your eyes. Your relaxation journey is well underway.
The app has received mostly positive reviews in iTunes, where it is available for $1.99. Several reviewers point out that it may only be effective for people who enjoy being guided through meditation. Not everyone responds to the kind of stimuli provided by PAUSE, the said.
One reviewer, Hawkk300, gave it five starts, admitting he approached PAUSE with doubts it could help with clinical anxiety.
“It (has) helped me calm my mind and made me learn how to focus on the now,” the reviewer said. “I plan to be using this on a regular (basis).”