- Spire Stone: Stress Management and Activity Tracker for iOS & Android
- Spire Review: Mindfulness and Activity tracker
- Is the spire waterproof
- What about the battery life of the spire
- The spire App
- The spire stone features summary
- Pros and Cons of the spire
- Does The Spire Stress Tracker Actually Work?
- How To Monitor The Mind : Spire Breath Tracker Review
- Why The Breath Is The Bridge To The Mind
- How To Monitor Your Mind With The Spire Breath Tracker
- How The Spire Stone Breath Tracker Works
- Why I Recommend The Spire Stone
- How it works
- Smartphone stress relief
- Bottom line
- The New Activity Tracker that Puts Stress Before Steps
- NEW Spire Stone: Dont`t give stress and anxiety space in your life
Spire Stone: Stress Management and Activity Tracker for iOS & Android
I’ve been using Spire for about 3 weeks now and I’ve been debating about how to review it. I’ve decided to give the product 5 stars. If I could, I’d give it 4.5 but that’s not an option, and I genuinely believe it deserves more than 4 stars. I won’t describe what the product does, if you’re reading this then presumably you already know that and you’re trying to figure out if it actually delivers. I’ll list what I really like about the product, and what I want to see change.
– getting real-time notifications when I’m not breathing properly is simply huge. I was just on a phone meeting and got a notification on my iPhone that it had been awhile since I’d taken a deep breath. Sure enough, Spire was right. It was just a nice little nudge, a reminder, to get back to doing what I know is important, full and functional breathing.
– being able to track through my day when I was calm, when I was in focus, when I was tense, it’s really helpful information. Spire can do better on this count and I’ll talk about that in a moment. The data presentation and tracking is not as dialed in as I’d like it to be, but is it better than what I was doing pre-Spire (which was, namely, nothing)? Oh heck yeah.
– alerts are great. You set them up within their parameters and now the app gives you real time feedback. If I’ve been tense for 3 minutes, Spire will tell me. If I’ve been in an extended period of calm or focus, I’m going to see that, too. And that’s helpful for determining what I was doing/thinking/focusing on to create that state.
– the boosts. Those are recordings you can listen to in order to increase a sense of calm, or focus, increase energy, etc… It’s a nice library of resources. And they have a nice ‘foundation pack’ teaching you some elemental breathing techniques along with getting to know your device and the app.
– last but not least, I like having such a modest device to track my steps. I don’t wear a pedometer, I don’t wear a fitness watch, so it’s nice to have Spire do this for me.
– some of the problems others have noted have not been a problem for me at all. I wear it on my waistband and initially thought it would bug me. And it did bug me, absolutely. For about 45 minutes. After that I literally forget I have it on. It’s just not an issue. Connectivity is not an issue, either. Setup has been easy and it stays connected to my iPhone 6+ without issue.
Things I’d like to see improve:
– there are times where I feel like I’m tense but Spire doesn’t recognize it as such. I get that my perspective is a thought while Spire is measuring actual breathing patterns. I suppose this means that even when I emotionally feel tense, I’m still doing a credible job of breathing well. Cool. I do wish I had the ability to adjust the sensitivity of the algorithm, or increase the ‘challenge level’ so that it takes more to register as Calm, but that’s a relatively minor quibble.
– I cannot stand the way the foundation pack in the Boost section handles unlocking the next boost after you’ve listened to the prior one. Instead of making it immediately available, it waits until 9am the next business day. So if I listen to one boost Friday afternoon, I don’t get the next one unlocked until Monday morning. That’s just a brain dead design.
– could be easier to get more actionable data out of the app. For example, when I just had a Calm streak or a Focus streak, I’d love to be able to add a tag noting what I was doing during that streak. That would be helpful from an analysis perspective.
And good news, these last two issues? They are directly remedied in the next version of the Spire app. They are in beta testing on it and I took a look at it, and while it’s still rough around the edges it has great promise and it directly addresses these two points.
Bottom line: I think the device and the app are very useful as presently constructed. I emailed some thoughts, criticisms and suggestions to the company and was impressed to receive a detailed and thoughtful response from one of the company’s founders and chief science officer. We’ve had a nice dialogue such that while I’m impressed with what the app can do right now, I think where it’s going is simply going to get better and better.
So, do I recommend this for purchase right now? Yes, I absolutely do. I genuinely believe this is one of the few wearable technologies that doesn’t just give you a bunch of data that is essentially meaningless, but can actually improve the quality of your life in important and meaningful ways.
Spire Review: Mindfulness and Activity tracker
When It comes to managing stress and anxiety, we are all guilty. We happen to focus on our bodies ignoring the signal that we receive from our brain regarding our mental health. Sometimes, living in this fast forward life can be difficult and very stressful. With all the technologies out there helping us to shape our bodies and stay fit, we rarely find ones that address our mental health. And that’s where spire stands out. Spire is a breath tracking device that aims to help you acknowledge and cut stress from your life.it is not a magical device, but just like any other tracker, it helps you understand your mind and body more. In this spire review, we will explain how the spire works and its features.
Spire is basically a fitness tracker that also keeps an eye on your breath. The reason is that the way we breath tells a lot about our state; are we happy, sad, stressed or tensed. The creators of spire aimed to make it a product that measures your health and mental well- being. Spire read your breathing data, and alert you if you are having a stressful episode.
Spire is a clip-on tracker that was designed to be clipped on your clothes next to your body. The spire has a very appealing design. At a first glance, the spire looks like a very well-crafted technical device. The tracker is made of a durable plastic, with the look of a stone to give you the calmness of nature. It is very compact and light; at 32 x 44mm and 20g. and it is very soft to the skin, because of its outer skin that feels like the fabric used to cover speakers.
The tracker is designed to be worn throughout the day, it is very comfortable and barely noticeable. For best results, the tracker is supposed to be clipped in your clothes close to your skin let’s say on the inside of your wristband or for ladies they can attach it to their bra.
The spire has its own USB wireless charging dock, that is actually very pretty and has a calming design. It’s powered by Qi wireless charging technology. The charger includes a cork pad and a USB port to connect second USB cable for charging another device.
One of the best features that make the spire stands out, is its stress control. The spire’s patented respiration sensor measures your breathing in order to help you control your stress. The tracker aims to help you keep a healthy balance between your body and your mental health by tracking your steps and measuring your breath. The tracker can detect any change of breath, and gently alert you to changes. The device acts as a reminder for you to stop everything you are doing “especially if it making you stressed “and take a deep breath. It will gently vibrate to alert you.
Once such a thing happened, the application will even help you further and provide you with simple breathing exercises that can help you to be in a better state of mind.
Other than tracking your breath, the spire will also track your activity. The spire can track your steps, calorie burned.
However, what you need to know is that the tracker doesn’t keep track of your breath while doing an activity such as running. Whenever you are moving doing activities, the spire will detect that and start tracking your steps instead. However, people wonder if the spire monitors breathing while asleep and our answer is yes. It does not have a specific sleeping mode, but if you wear it during sleep the tracker will still work and vibrates if you were tensed during your sleep.
Overall, the spire tracker will detect your steps, the calorie you burned and most importantly your breath. It is one of the tools that will help you to reduce stress and stay calm. Forbes calls this tracker, the FitBit for your mind.
Is the spire waterproof
Well, not only that The Spire is waterproof and sweatproof. It’s even washing machine proof!
What about the battery life of the spire
The spire has a great battery life, it can last for 10 days. When it’s time to recharge, place it on the charging pad and it will charge wirelessly.
The spire App
The spire stone comes with a companion application that displays all the collected data from the tracker. In the application, you can set goals regarding how many minutes per day you would like to be calm, focused or even active. You can have a look at your current breath waves due to the real-time breathing feature.
If the spire stone tracker detects that there is something wrong with your breathing, the app will send you notifications with actionable texts. You can always check the meditation sessions that help you to be more focused, calm and reduces your stress. Wearing headphones during the session is highly recommended to isolate yourself from your surroundings.
Since the device doesn’t have a display, you will rely heavily on your phone. You will need it to receive notifications regarding your breath, or your steps if you have not been moving for a long time. The application integrates with your calendar, camera roll, and location. Which will help provide a better idea of where and when you mostly feel stressed, focused or calm. We found this as a very good and helpful feature that can help you understand what triggers your stress.
In the application, you can also check your stats screen to see your daily and weekly progress.
Lastly, the application is compatible with iOS devices running iOS 8.3 and above. Also, compatible with Android devices running Android 5.0 and above.
The spire stone features summary
- Basic tracking; steps and calorie
- Breath tracking
- Calm focus and tension tracking
- Breathing and meditation sessions
- Breath rate and pattern with an in-app live view
- Comfortable tracker and easy to wear
- Eye-catching design
- Great battery life that lasts up to 10 days
- Spire is water resistant, and machine washer resistant as well.
- Wireless charging
Pros and Cons of the spire
- Beautiful design
- Encourages the well-being of mental health
- Helps understanding stress triggers
- Very basic activity tracking
- Intermittent app sync
With all of the activity trackers on the market right now, new trackers need to do more than just count your steps. They need to have a unique design and features that make them stand out from the crowd. The Spire activity tracker has both a unique design and feature set. With its soft touch stone sensor, wireless charging and ability to detect your state of mind, it is one of the more interesting trackers currently available. But is it enough? Let’s take a closer look.
Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.
Included in the package
Spire stone sensor
Qi wireless charger
What is it?
The Spire is an activity tracker that can record your steps/activity and your breathing patterns to detect if you’re calm, focused or tense. It is made of durable plastic that looks like a stone but feels like soft textured plastic. The Spire is waterproof and sweat proof. It’s even washing machine proof!
Attached to the sensor is a surgical grade stainless steel hypoallergenic clip.
The Spire has been designed to be worn facing your body either by clipping it to the inside of your waist band or bra. If you just put the Spire in your pocket it will only be able to track your steps and not your breathing.
I was happy to see that the Spire comes with a Qi-compatible wireless charger. That means no cables to plug in. All you have to do is unclip the Spire tracking sensor, set it on the charger and you’re done.
The charger has an attractive design that includes a cork pad and it also offers a USB port to connect a second USB cable for charging another device like a phone or tablet. If you have a Qi compatible device you should be able to use this charger to charge it. I tested it with my LG G3 with a Qi patch and it seemed to charge it just fine.
The activity tracker runs for up to 7 days per charge and fully recharges in about 3 hours. A small blue LED (you can see it in the image above) will glow when the sensor is charging and will go out when the tracker is fully charged.
What can the Spire track?
The Spire activity tracker will track your steps, activity and your breathing patterns to show the periods when you’ve been calm, focused and tense. How can it do that? Here’s an explanation taken from Spire’s FAQ:
Spire uses a suite of sensors working in concert to process data with our proprietary algorithms to sense body position, activity, and breathing patterns. These sensors detect the respiratory movement of your body. Spire does not use the chemical makeup of your breath. The raw sensor data is sent to your phone, and from there, the cloud, where it is analyzed to provide personal feedback.
To see your recorded steps and breathing data you will need an iOS device like an iPhone or iPad and the free Spire app. Unfortunately, Android devices are not supported at this time but there are plans to have offer one at some point. I used a first gen iPad mini while testing the Spire.
The Spire tracker uses Bluetooth to constantly sync your data when you’re within range of the paired device. You don’t have to initiate syncing, it all happens automatically. The Spire app interface is pretty easy to navigate and understand. The home page allows you to see how many minutes in the last hour that you’ve been calm, focused, active or tense.
Tapping on one of the headings takes you to a page with additional info. And no, I didn’t know that beavers can hold their breath for 45 minutes.
If you’re not doing too well focusing or remaining calm, the app provides voice guided breathing exercises to help boost your focus, calmness and energy. There’s even a deep meditation exercise. I tried all of the exercises but only found that the energy boost exercise was beneficial to me.
As a step counter, the Spire activity tracker records steps as well as most other trackers that I’ve tried. While testing the Spire, I also wore another tracker and the steps recorded were within 100 or so steps of each other.
As far as the Spire being able to tell my state of mind, it’s hard for me to say if it’s accurately recording how calm, focused or tense that I am. I’ve been using the Spire for several days and it shows that I’m almost never tense, which is true. I’m really laid back and am rarely flustered. Each day I was able to reach my calmness goal (2hrs) without any problems. I didn’t fare so well with the Focus goal, but I don’t feel I need any help focusing as I’m able to handle what needs to be handled on a day to day basis. I think this tracker might be better suited for someone who needs help cultivating focus and calmness.
The Spire activity tracker is unique in both look and features, but with a price tag of $150, I think it’s over priced for what it offers right now. Since it only tracks steps and state of mind, and doesn’t work with Android devices, it feels a little lacking in the feature department when compared to other trackers that can track steps, stairs, sleep, heart rate and blood oxygen levels.
Note: the Spire does not track sleep but they are developing features to help Spire collect data about your sleeping positions, sleep stages, and breathing (or snoring) patterns, and recommend ways to improve your sleep quality.
Although I think the Spire activity tracker is overpriced, I still find it an interesting gadget because I like that companies are continuing to add unique features to fitness trackers. Now I just wish I could find one tracker that has all these features.
Source: The sample for this review was provided by Spire. Please visit their site for more info.
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Does The Spire Stress Tracker Actually Work?
I’m a sucker for Facebook ads, and my latest buy-in was the Spire tracker. The activity monitor, designed by Stanford University’s Calming Technology Lab, is billed as a Fitbit for your mind. The device measures breathing patterns and counts your steps throughout the day to tell when you’re tense or stressed and pinpoints what makes you focused. The unspoken claim is that Spire chills you out: “Customers report it reduces fatigue and headaches, increases calm and productivity and enables a healthier and more mindful day.” But is it all just Zen washing?
From a design perspective, Spire is transcendent. The $149 device looks like a river stone on one side with a metal clip on the back that’s shaped like a silver wishbone. The Qi wireless charger is beautiful, too, with its faux-wood-grain trim that makes you want to display the Spire when it’s being charged. The gadget holds its power for almost a week and it is rugged enough to survive the washing machine if you forget to take it off your clothes.
Spire doesn’t actually monitor your brain. It gauges your breathing. Slow, consistent breaths indicates calmness. Halting, uneven breaths signal tension. Breathing that’s fast and consistent gets points for focus. Add lots of steps and Spire knows you’re in an activity streak.
Spire puts relaxation in your hands
Clipping the device on your belt (or on your bra, if you wear one) doesn’t do much on its own other than sparking conversation with friends and strangers when you show it to them. The data only syncs up when you open the Spire app on your iPhone. After setting initial goals for Calm, Focus (60 minutes each day for each) and Activity (I opted for 10,000 steps a day), the home screen visualizes your breath with a floating line that goes down when you inhale and up when you breathe out. The screen also logs various “streaks,” which, in my case, were mostly stress streaks at first. Click further and you see how many breaths and steps you’re taking per minute, among other details.
The first week, I was all about meeting my targets. A progress report divides your day into three petals on a flower. My “activity” petal was always full with 10,000-plus steps a day (in part motivated by seeing them add up on the tracker). “Focus” was roughly at 50 percent, but, really, who focuses 100 percent of the time these days. My “calm” petal was the one that troubled me. With frequent stress streaks, my calm numbers were in the 20 percent range. But Spire has a solution for that, too.
The second week, I started doing calm boosts if I noticed the stress streaks were outnumbering the relaxed ones. A woman who sounded like Siri would guide me through a two-minute breathing exercise (“Let’s inhale for three counts. At the end of the inhale pause for a moment. Now exhale for three slow counts”). It actually got my calm petal filled.
But I’m human and after a couple days, I went back to my usual, non-boosted stress state. I stopped checking in with Spire as much and occasionally got false reads. I did a three-mile hike one day and the stone only registered 2,300 steps. Another night I was kicking back watching Family Guy and noticed I was in a stress streak. It wasn’t an especially stressful episode and I was actually relaxed. For the same price as Spire, I could get more detailed stats and also track my sleep with a Fitbit Charge HR, could I not?
Then something really interesting happened. The day my son graduated from fifth grade, my wife and I made the insane decision to invite the entire class over for a karaoke party — without parents. My wife took charge of the snacks and juice boxes; I jumped headlong into karaoke insanity. Picture 45 fifth graders screaming and dancing to Beyonce and Nicki Minaj and only one parent making sure the songs weren’t set on EXPLICIT. It was bedlam.
Actual scene from my karaoke “stress streak”
The party was scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and at the end of the night, I checked my stats to see what Spire thought. I was in a stress redzone from 4 p.m. set-up pretty much straight through, aside from a couple short runs of focus and activity (Okay, so I couldn’t resist joining the kids for Uptown Funk). But here’s the kicker: at 8 pm sharp, as the kids cleared out I got my house back, Spire sensed something neither of us had felt all day: A six-minute “calm” streak. Then again, I didn’t need a little rock to tell me that.
Follow me on Twitter at @davidhochman and @letterfromLA
There’s been an explosion in “wearable tech” recently, and I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t jumped on that particular bandwagon. The idea of doodads clipped to my body that constantly measure various vital signs is at first a fascinating idea and very science fiction-y…but it quickly becomes a rather frightening prospect.
Spire is one of the latest of such doodads, and I had the opportunity to give it a test run over the past few weeks. Officially, it is “a wearable device made for body and mind, tracking how you move and breathe.” Sounds a bit like Big Brother, right?
Sure, there’s the privacy issue. Who exactly has access to these data, which — in the case of Spire — includes not only a detailed breakdown of your daily routine and sleeping and breathing patterns but also your precise GPS location at all times?
But, let’s face it, if you’re the type to clip something like this to your belt, you’re probably not lying awake wondering who’s coming for you in the middle of the night. (Indeed, your smartphone also tracks your location at all times, and I doubt you’re going to part with that anytime soon.) So the question then is: How useful is it?
Straight out of the box, it’s actually a beautiful little device. For comparison purposes, it’s about the same size and weight as a FitBit Zip. There’s no screen on Spire, though, which resembles a smooth stone more than anything else.
When you first set up your device and sync it to the associated (free) iOS app, you have to answer some basic questions about your height, weight, age, and sex. It also collects some information about how you sit.
(Let’s also get this out of the way: yes, it’s iOS only. There’s currently no timetable for an Android version.)
In addition to being a pedometer, Spire monitors your breathing in real time through sensors that measure the rise and fall of either your chest or stomach (depending on where you attach it). It then sends this information to and tracks your daily patterns in the app, which breaks down your day into “streaks” of calm, focus, activity, or tension.
Theoretically, this sounds great. Based on the data the app receives (i.e., your activity and breathing patterns), it sends notifications designed to help you lower tension or increase calm/focus/activity, whatever the case may be.
It needs to stay connected to the app, though. If your phone is off, if the battery runs down, or if the device somehow becomes disconnected from the phone/app, you will lose data after three hours. Spire can only hold three hours’ worth of data internally before it starts dumping it. In short, it needs to constantly be connected and streaming to gather accurate data.
A nice feature is the ability to launch “boosts” through the app, which are guided breathing exercises and mini-meditations designed to increase your mindfulness and focus. I’ll admit: these boosts are the best part of Spire. They turn the device into something interactive and really help you achieve your desired state of mind.
So how does the device work practically? I spend a lot of time in front of a computer, so it’s obvious why long stretches sitting in one position don’t register as “activity.” I’m not moving around. But in practice, I have no idea what the difference between Focus and Calm is, with regard to this device.
Spire defines Focus as “intense, consistent attention,” but the app seems to arbitrarily classify my behavior as either Calm or Focus. For example, take a look at the daily snapshots below. On the first, I surpassed 100% of my daily goal for being calm (the green portion of the pinwheel), but apparently I wasn’t focused at all (the blue portion). On the second, which saw a similar daily routine (though with fewer steps taken), my data revealed that I surpassed my daily quota of focus but wasn’t very calm.
These are extreme examples, yes. Most days showed much closer percentages, but these extremes weren’t anomalies, and they made me doubt the accuracy of all the data. (The step tracker was mostly in line with my FitBit Zip, which I was wearing at the same time.)
These pinwheel graphics provide a neat snapshot into my daily activity, but–alas–I didn’t find the data all that revealing or useful. Data hounds (or people who obsessively track their vitals) might think otherwise.
Finally, Spire comes with the claim of a 7-day battery life, but I found it to be far less than that. Granted, I routinely neglected to rest the Spire in the recharging station at night (honestly, I usually forgot to take it off my pants at the end of the day, which seems like something most people might do).
In fact, my Spire would often die without any warning at all. The app is supposed to send a notification to your phone that the battery is low, but I never received such a notification. Often, I’d check the app at the end of the day only to discover that it hadn’t tracked anything because the Spire battery had died hours before.
By contrast, my FitBit Zip has been going strong for months on a single out-of-the-box charge, and the battery still reads as full.
Verdict? This is a device that definitely fills a niche for a certain type of person. It’s just a shame that person isn’t me. If you obsess about personal data, about your breathing patterns, how many steps you take, or how long your body registers as being “stressed,” then Spire is definitely right up your alley.
It certainly does provide an accessible avenue for becoming more mindful and meditative in your daily routine.
However, if you’re at all concerned about nameless companies with access to your data or your location… well, then you’re likely not into wearable tech in the first place.
Spire is available from Spire.io and Amazon for $149.99.
(Disclosure: I temporarily received a Spire for review purposes. My opinions remain my own.)
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How To Monitor The Mind : Spire Breath Tracker Review
As a self-tracking nerd, I’m obsessed with gathering and optimizing meaningful data around various aspects of my life. From calorie intake and hours slept to optimize my physical health, to pomodoros worked and time on social media to optimize my work life.
The activity of my mind is one of the trickier aspects to measure. Sure, I can use apps like Insight Timer to track minutes meditated or devices like the Muse headband to measure my brain waves. I used to even record my mood (on a scale of 1 to 10) every few hours, but found it a pain. Until now I’ve struggled to find a “set and forget it” type device that tracks my mental/emotional state throughout the day without needing to do anything.
That’s why I was beyond excited learning about the Spire Stone Breath Tracker. It’s a wearable device that measures your breathing patterns, thus giving you a glimpse inside your state of mind. I’ve experimented with the Spire for the past year or so and in this article, I’m going to give you an overview of the technology.
Why The Breath Is The Bridge To The Mind
If the mind and body are connected, their junction occurs at the level of the breath. As Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.”
The range of states you can experience are intimately linked with their own distinct style of breathing. If you’re anxious before an important meeting, your breathing naturally becomes rapid and shallow. If you’re relaxing at home at the end of your day, your breath becomes deep and slow. If you’re locked in at work and in a state of flow, your breathing rhythms become much more consistent than normal.
A growing trend the past few years has been to reverse engineer this process by tapping into a particular style of breathing to enter a specific state of consciousness – whether using holotropic breathwork to tap into mystical-like states, wim hof breathing to get a euphoric jolt of energy, or heart rate variability (HRV) training to melt stress and anxiety from the body.
How To Monitor Your Mind With The Spire Breath Tracker
If you think of the range of emotions and mental states as different channels on a television, then the breath is the remote controller you can use to jump from one channel to the next.
Stressed with a deadline at work? Slow breathing will wind you down in minutes. Feeling scatterbrained and unable to focus? High-frequency Kapalabhati breathing will do the trick. Suffering from a bout of depression? Sudarshan Kriya breathing could help manage your symptoms.
The beauty of the breath is it’s available anytime, anywhere to practically engineer our state of consciousness at will. The problem is most are completely unaware of this built-in mind hacking technology they’re equipped with.
Biofeedback training devices like the Spire Breath Tracker allows us to gain greater awareness of functions of our body that typically fly under our radar. Biofeedback training expert Maxwell Cade sums up this point perfectly in his book The Awakened Mind:
“Essentially, biofeedback is a new way of learning about ourselves, or a way of relearning, or realizing for the first time, what the body already knows— how to act, how to feel, even how to heal— if we listen to it. With biofeedback instruments and techniques, the art of listening to internal cues can be restored, or established. Since one cannot control that of which one is unaware, biofeedback can be said to provide the means to become aware— acutely aware— of ourselves, and thereby to gain the possibility of self-control.”
How The Spire Stone Breath Tracker Works
The Spire Stone is a wearable device that clips to your belt or bra. It tracks the expansion and contraction of your torso or chest, thus measuring your respiratory pattern (and associated cognitive/emotional states).
It’s technology, which was originally created at Stanford University’s Calming Technology Lab, measures a host of metrics associated with your breath:
- Inhalation / exhalation duration and slope
- Hold durations after inhale and exhale
- Inhalation/exhalation ratio
- Respiratory waveform morphology
Here’s a video I recorded of the Spire app home screen. The line moving up is my inhalation, and the line moving down my exhalation:
Its algorithms use this data to identify if you’ve entered three distinct states: calm, tense, and focus. Let’s break down each of these three states and how they relate to the Spire.
A Brief Primer On Our Nervous System
Before we move forward, it’s worth setting a foundation and cover the basics of our nervous system, which are divided into two parts: the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
The sympathetic nervous system can be thought of as our body’s “on switch”. This arousal system is referred to as our “fight or flight response”, and its job is to turn on various systems in our body when something of motivational importance is presented to us. If a bear is seen in the distance, it’s the system that makes our hearts race, glands excrete sweat, and respiratory rate increase as we prepare to either fight or flee.
The other half of our nervous system can be thought of as our body’s “off switch.” This relaxation system is referred to as our “rest and digest response”, and its job is to turn off various systems in our body in order to conserve energy. After you’ve run away from that bear, it wouldn’t serve you to continue pumping out adrenaline, breathing fast, etc. The parasympathetic system allows you to turn these systems off and rejuvenate its energy reserves.
These two divisions of our nervous system generally inhibit one another. When the sympathetic system is activated, the parasympathetic system turns off, and vice versa. These two systems play a key role in the various mental states we cover below.
Calm: 6 – 12 Breaths Per Minute
Our typical rate of breathing occurs at 12-20 breaths per minute. States of calm generally occur around 6 – 12 breaths per minute. When you’re Netflix’ing at home, hanging out with friends, or listening to music, chances are your breath rate is sitting in this range.
When this occurs, your parasympathetic response is kicking in, largely carried out by the Vagus nerve – the longest nerve of in the body that starts out from the base of our brain and reaches most of the major organs. When you’re in states of calm, your Vagus nerve is at work helping slow your heart rate down, digest food that you’ve eaten, aid in self-healing, rejuvenate energy reserves, and more.
The Spire is amazing at optimizing time spent sitting in this crucial state. If you’re experiencing a streak of calm and for whatever reason get thrown off, the device will alert you. This priceless feedback allows you make the necessary changes and steer the ship back into this rejunivating state.
The beauty of the breath is its the only component of our nervous system that works both on a voluntary and involuntary level, giving you conscious control to calm your mind/body by slowing down the breath. The Spire is an amazing tool to help with this. If you’re feeling particularly tense, the app has a feature that helps bring your respiratory rate down:
As your breathing slows down, grey dots turn green. When all the dots are green, your respiratory rate is at a calm level.
Tense: 18 – 24 Breaths Per Minute
Tense states generally occur around 18 – 24 breaths per minute.
When this occurs, the sympathetic nervous system is kicking in and your body is preparing to either fight or flee from a threat – cortisol courses through your veins, your heart rate & blood pressure rise, and digestion slows down.
Although this served us for millions of years to outrun bears and defend against neighboring tribes, in modern times this system is overactive. Elevated cortisol levels diminish our memory, weaken our immune system, increase weight gain, blood pressure, and heart disease. Consider these statistics:
- 7 out of 10 Americans say they experience stress or anxiety every single day1
- 44% of Americans report an increase in psychological stress over the past five years2
- 60–80% of doctor visits have a stress-related component3
- Workplace stress accounts to over $300 billion dollars per year in healthcare bills and missed workdays
I viewed myself as a relatively calm person. But it was only through the Spire that I realized how often I’m tense. The device would alert me various times of my day that normally I thought I was calm (but in reality was stressed) – whether this was driving my car, being in certain social scenarios, or working on the computer.
When these events occurred, I’d feel the Spire buzz around my waist, reminding me to chill out. I’d then take a few slow, deep breaths to crank my respiratory rate down. These little micro-adjustments add up throughout the day, week, and months to save you a mountain of strain on your body.
The Spire is constantly recording your mental/emotional states, feeding all this data to your Spire dashboard. Within a few taps on your phone, you can view the day-by-day, week-by-week changes in your mental states.
If you’re attempting to manage stress in your life, these valuable metrics could be key in helping you achieve this. Maybe every other week you test various stress management tools (meditation, exercise, art therapy, etc). Based on the feedback you’re getting from your Spire, you can use hard data to pinpoint which of these activities is best moving the needle.
Focus: Greater Consistency & Stability In Breathing
States of focus are associated with greater consistency than normal breathing patterns.
As Spire’s scientific director Stephen Porges Ph.D describes it “the ability to direct and focus cognitive activity on specific stimuli”4 and it exhibits a reduction in random variability (i.e., greater consistency) while mental load will actually increase random variability, leading to more ‘erratic’ breathing5. (More info about this idea can be found here.)
When you’re “in the zone” at work, chances are you’re in this state. Time flies without you even noticing it, creative ideas are effortlessly oozing out of you, and your cognitively firing on all cylinders. It’s the state of mind the famous Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi famously named as “flow”.
Normally, the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of your nervous systems mutually inhibit one another. But in flow states, the parasympathetic and sympathetic divisions strike a healthy balance. You’re alert, but not anxious. Calm, but still focused. Blissed out and performing at your very best.
Until now, it was nearly impossible to track time spent in this magical mind state. But the Spire Stone gives us the ability to do just that. When you’re breathing is more consistent than normal, the Stone counts this time as a focus “streak.”
Maybe you find that you’re more focused at certain periods of the day, or at a certain location, or while playing a certain type of album in the background. The Stone allows you to gather these meaningful bits of data you’d normally never get access to, giving you the ability to maximize time spent in this crucial state.
Why I Recommend The Spire Stone
The Spire Stone Breath Tracker accomplishes something I’ve been searching for years to find: the ability to track my mental and emotional states on autopilot.
Its given me unprecedented access into the activity of my mind, allowing you to maximize time spent in productive states like focus and calm, and minimize time in tense states. I’d highly recommend picking up the Stone, especially since it’s relatively low cost. The Spire currently sells for $99, which in my opinion is a bargain for the insights you’ll gain in return.
Have you tried the Spire Stone? If so, let us know your experiences with the device in the comments below.
Cover art by Seamlesso
Fitness trackers are a dime a dozen, but devices that focus on your mind instead of body are typically overlooked—mental health is incredibly personal and can be difficult to define, which makes it even harder to measure. That’s what makes Spire, a breath -tracking device that aims to curb stress, stand out. This device was released in 2014 but got a boost this summer with an Apple Store retail presence and an overhauled iOS app, so I decided to give the company-described “mind and body tracker” a closer look to see if it really combats stress.
Spire is a graphite-colored oval-shaped stone attached to a silver clip. You wear it on your pants or tucked inside your bra with the clip facing out. But its simple looks belie its more complex functions.
“What does that thing do?” my boyfriend asked as he watched me slide the device onto the waistband of my workout pants.
“Oh, it reminds me to breathe,” I replied without thinking.
“Um…your brain already does that,” he replied.
More specifically, Spire reminds you when to take deep, calming breaths in an effort to encourage more mindfulness. It’s also an activity tracker in that it counts your steps, but it’s not the best workout companion. It doesn’t have a display and it won’t urge you to run faster or get your heart rate up. Instead, Spire relies on its app to do the heavy lifting.
How it works
Spire’s home screen shows your breath in real-time.
Setting up Spire is as easy as any other Bluetooth device. Make sure your phone’s Bluetooth is turned on, install the Spire app, and pair the device to your phone.
Spire is a beautiful device. It’s too bad no one will see you wearing it. The stone has to be touching your skin, which I somehow didn’t realize until hours into fastening it to my pants with the stone facing outward. I didn’t have any issues with friction when the stone was pressed against my skin, not even when running with Spire clipped inside my sports bra, but you’ll definitely feel that it’s there.
What Spire looks for is patterns in your breathing, which is why it has to be so close to your body. As you inhale and exhale, Spire tracks your chest movement, then sends that information to your phone. Your breathing appears in real-time on the app home screen as an undulating line. After you use the device for a few days, you’ll establish your individual baseline, so your breathing isn’t being compared to an average standard. Your breathing says a lot about your state of mind. Erratic breaths signal stress, while steady and slow ones indicate deep focus.
Smartphone stress relief
Because the device doesn’t have a display, you’ll need your phone nearby at all times to receive notifications, which are endlessly customizable. You can set your Spire to vibrate and send you an alert when you’ve been sitting for too long, when you need to take a deep breath, when you’ve been intensely focused for awhile, or when you’re in a sustained period of calm. All of these reminders are designed to make you more conscious of your breathing and your state of mind.
Spire’s notifications nudge you to focus on your mind, not just your step count.
The app also integrates with your calendar, camera roll, and location, so you have a better idea of where and when you’re most stressed, focused, or calm. These integrations, which are new to the app, are a good start toward helping you figure out what triggers your stress before it happens. If a regular meeting with your boss throws you into tense mode, taking some deep breaths or meditating ahead of time could ease the stress.
Spire also has an Apple Watch app, so I was getting notifications all over the place. This is how I realized I am an intensely focused person, which isn’t all that surprising. I’m rarely prone to panic, but I’m also not very calm. The device and watch app vibrated gently to remind me to take deep breaths when I was in the midst of a long stretch of focus. Guided meditative boosts, which are accessible in a different part of the app and range in length and topic, were calming, reminding me to release tension from my head and shoulders and take intentional breaths. It was like a yoga class without any movement.
Spire is beautifully designed, and so is its charging puck.
I have a few issues with Spire. It takes forever to sync data from the device to your iPhone if you don’t let the Spire app run continuously in the background. (I’m not a big fan of keeping location-tracking apps open to keep my battery alive as long as possible.) But the device only stores six hours of information locally before it’s lost, so if you forget to sync the two, your data disappears.
I also wish Spire were a more useful activity tracker. It tracks your steps, active minutes, and calories burned, but it has no clue what kind of exercise you’re doing. You have to manually add a note to each burst of activity. The device also doesn’t track sleep, though Spire cofounder and chief scientist Neema Morajevi told me that’s in the works.
It’s also tough to tell if mindful breathing does anything to reduce your stress long-term. Taking control of your breath, which is just one indicator of stress, might not do anything at all to improve your overall mental well-being, though it might feel like it in the moment.
I do love Spire’s design (which picked up a Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in 2014). Even the charging puck that comes with the device is Apple-esque. And I appreciate that it can survive a trip through the washing machine if you forget to take it off before throwing your clothes in the hamper. But Spire is $130 (down from $150 when it was released), which is a little expensive for a device with no display. That money could go toward a great fitness tracker. And if you already own an Apple Watch, the release of watchOS 3 this fall puts Apple’s Breathe app on your wrist. It won’t track your breathing the way Spire does, but it will remind you to take time to focus on your mental health, which is Spire’s end goal.
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The New Activity Tracker that Puts Stress Before Steps
In a world flooded with same-old activity trackers, Spire ($150, spire.io) stands out. Sure, it calculates your steps and calories burned, but it’s not billed as an activity tracker: It’s a mindfulness wearable.
What does that mean? Spire’s main purpose is to track your breath, not your steps. Developed by Neema Moraveji and Jonathan Palley, of Stanford University’s Calming Technology Lab, it picks up on little signs of stress-you breathe faster and more shallowly, your heart rate speeds up, your muscles tense-and uses a companion app (free; iTunes) to tell you when it’s time to decompress.
When you set up Spire, it asks you to choose Activity, Calm, and Focus goals (i.e. how many steps you want to take a day, and how many minutes you want to spend in a calm and focused state of mind). I said 10,000 steps, 60 minutes, and 60 minutes, respectively.
Spire tracks your breathing in real time (via a little line that rises and falls on the app homescreen) and logs “streaks,” when you spend 3 minutes or more in a certain state of mind. It also offers “boosts,” which are guided breathing exercises. There’s one to help you de-stress, but also options for increasing focus and energy. (Like these 3 Breathing Techniques for Dealing with Anxiety, Stress, and Low Energy.)
I used Spire for about two weeks. Here’s what I loved (and not so much).
It’s easy to use (and modify). Spire lets you turn on (or off) six notifications: deep breath, inactivity, tense, activity, focus, and calm. The wearable will buzz if, for example, you’ve gone without taking a deep breath or have been tense for a certain amount of time, and a notification pops up on your phone with advice (like “take a deep breath” or “time for a calm boost?”). I only turned on the negative notifications-deep breath, inactivity, and tense. I may be a needy youngest child, but constant positive feedback from wearables just annoys me. (Find out The Right Way to Use Your Fitness Tracker.)
It’s non-invasive.In part, this is because I turned off the “good job!” notifications, but Spire only buzzed to nudge me into doing something healthy-take a breath, take a walk, take a break-so I wasn’t inundated with alerts. (It also sends a summary every morning of the previous day’s stats.) And while the last thing I wanted to hear when I was in the middle of a 30-minute tense streak was that I should maybe think about taking a second to decompress (actual excerpt from my notes: I DON’T HAVE TIME TO TAKE A THREE-MINUTE BREATHING BREAK RIGHT NOW SPIRE, GET OFF MY BACK), it was probably the first thing I needed to hear.
It works. While Spire didn’t catch every time I felt tense, I never got a notification telling me I was tense when I actually wasn’t. And maybe it was the placebo effect, but the “calm boost” (basically guided deep breathing) really did work. After, I felt focused and less stressed. And when I tried to fudge the boost (just let it play without following the instructions), my tense streak remained unbroken. Damn you, Spire!
It’s not great for activity tracking. (Again, Spire agrees with this-it’s marketed as a mindfulness wearable. It’s not meant to replace your FitBit, just supplement it.) I tried to wear it running a couple times and found the sensor a bit uncomfortable. So I’d ditch it during exercise. What it did excel at was telling me how often I got up and walked around during the day, which I found extremely helpful, especially given all the recent news about how harmful extended periods of sitting can be. (Lower Your Risk of Death from Sitting in Two Minutes.)
It’s bulky. Spire is a sleek-looking tracker; it even won a National Design Award. It resembles a decorative pebble you’d buy for $40 at Pier One or something-with a wood-accented charging station to match. But you have to clip Spire onto your waistband or bra (my preferred spot) with the pebble facing your skin, and I was always aware of it pressing or rubbing against my stomach or chest. For me, not ideal.
It’s a little glitchy. My main complaint here is pretty minor: During the boosts, my phone would go to sleep-and the guided meditation would go to sleep with it. When I’m doing deep breathing meditation, that’s distracting.
So should you get it?
I would. I plan to keep wearing Spire, despite the slight discomfort. I’m a health editor; I know that I need to stand up from my desk more often and stress less, or face dire consequences. But in the moment, when I’m working against a tight deadline, it’s really tough to actually remember that. Spire remembers for me, and gives me a way out, whether through one of its “boosts” or just a reminder to stand up. And even when I don’t want to hear it (another excerpt: OMG WHO CARES IF I’M TENSE I HATE YOU SPIRE), at the end of the day, it’s a good thing to be aware of.
- By Mirel Ketchiff
NEW Spire Stone: Dont`t give stress and anxiety space in your life
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