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How to unwind with the Mindfulness app on your Apple Watch

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When you need a brief respite during a busy day, turn to the Mindfulness app on your Apple Watch.

Life can be difficult, especially these days when we’re still dealing with the pandemic and political strife and other obstacles. Add to those problems the stress and pressure we sometimes feel during a typical workday, and we all could use an outlet to help us unwind, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time. One quick and convenient way to relax is through your Apple Watch, specifically through the Mindfulness app.

SEE: Working from home: How to get remote right (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Available with watchOS 8 and higher, the Mindfulness app offers two modes to help you take a break from the daily grind.

Reflect mode encourages you to think about something for a moment. The item could be a challenge you’re facing, a positive trait about yourself or someone else, a feeling you experience at certain times, or just random thoughts that pop into your head. The trick is to ruminate on this notion or memory or thought or emotion and allow it to play out for a brief period of time.

Breathe mode is a carryover from past versions of watchOS in which you remain still as you pay attention to your breath. An animated image and a dose of haptic feedback both guide you as you inhale and exhale for a minute. Even such a quick, occasional break from your day to practice deep breathing can fill you with a sense of calm, both physically and mentally. You may want to try Breathe mode if you’re upset or angry or frustrated over something and need to clear your head.

The time you spend with the Mindfulness app is recorded in your iPhone’s Health app, so you can track your progress to see how you fare over time. Here’s how it all works.

Reflect

Open the Mindfulness app on your watch. Tap the entry for Reflect. The screen asks you to take a moment to pause. A specific suggestion then appears, prompting you to focus on a certain item. Tap Begin and devote your mind to the task at hand. As you consider the suggestion, a swirling animation appears on the screen that can help prevent you from getting distracted. When the session ends after a minute, you’re asked to take something about it with you. A Summary screen shows the elapsed time, your heart rate, and the number of minutes you’ve spent in the Mindfulness app so far today. Tap Done to exit the Summary screen (Figure A).

Figure A

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Breathe

In the Mindfulness app, tap the entry for Breathe. You’re asked to be still and bring your attention to your breath. The session starts by prompting you to inhale as the swirling animation expands and then exhale as the animation shrinks. Continue breathing this way for the full minute. When you’re done, the Summary screen reveals the amount of time you spent and your resting heart rate (Figure B).

Figure B

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Refine the sessions

By default, each Reflect and Breathe session runs for a minute. You can end the session by swiping the screen to the right and tapping End. But try to let it play for the full minute. If you find a minute too short, you can increase the amount of time. Tap the ellipsis icon for Reflect or for Breathe. Tap the entry for Duration to change the number of minutes to anywhere from two to five. The screen also provides tips on how to sit or position yourself for reflecting or breathing (Figure C).

Figure C

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Tweak the sessions

Beyond adjusting the number of minutes for a Breathe session, you can increase or decrease the number of breaths suggested by the movement of the animation. To do this on your watch, go to Settings and select Mindfulness. Swipe down the screen and tap the option for Breath Rate. The default is 7 breaths per minute but you can go as low as 4 breaths or as high as 10 breaths per minute. Generally, the fewer breaths you take and the longer you can stretch out each breath, the more beneficial you should find the activity. But ultimately, you’ll want to adjust this setting according to your own preferences.

At the Mindfulness settings screen, you can also adjust the haptic feedback you receive during a Breathe activity. Tap the option for Haptics to turn it off completely, set it to minimal or set it to prominent (Figure D).

Figure D

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Set reminders

In addition to manually triggering a Reflect or Breathe session, you can set reminders throughout the day to initiate one automatically. On your watch, go to Settings and then Mindfulness. By default, a reminder occurs at the start and end of each day, though you can turn these off.

To set other times, tap the option for Add Reminder. Then tap the setting for Change Time. The cursor rests on the number for the hour. Turn the Digital Crown to change that number. Tap the box for minutes. Turn the Digital Crown to change the number of minutes. When done, tap the checkmark.

Back at the prior screen, tap the setting for Repeat. Check or uncheck each day based on when you want to receive a reminder. Tap Add, and the reminder appears on the screen. Swipe further down the screen and turn on the switch for Mute for Today if you don’t want to see any more reminders today (Figure E).

Figure E

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View your progress

Finally, you can check the progress you make at being mindful. On your iPhone, open the Health app, tap the Browse icon, and select Mindfulness. The screen shows the number of minutes spent in the app for today. Tap the entry for today to view the daily average as well as the average for the week, month, past six months and year (Figure F).

Figure F

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