Have you heard of the wearable that will tell you when you’re stressed? Meet Spire, the stress (and activity) tracking wearable that claims to be the Fitbit for your mind.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I have a thing for wearables and fitness data. So I’ve been skeptical but intrigued about Spire for some time. When they recently had a $50 off promotion, I decided to go for it. They have a 30-day money-back guarantee return, so I figured if it didn’t work or I found it useless, I’d simply return it.
I’ll cut right to the chase … Spire totally works and I find it very useful. In fact, it works so well it’s actually a little creepy.
Who Needs Spire?
I believe anyone can benefit, but if the following list describes you, I think you have the most potential to get a lot out of Spire:
- You struggle with stress, lack of focus and/or feeling frazzled
- You want to be more aware of what in your life causes these feelings
- You want to do something about it
I emphasized that last one because Spire itself won’t transform you from a crazy stressball into a zen Buddhist monk. Only you can do that. But Spire will help you understand what your stress triggers are, and help you learn healthy habits to manage them.
How does it work?
It’s surprisingly simple — Spire is a small wearable that measures your rate of breathing to determine how often you’re calm (slow, consistent breaths), focused (fast, consistent breaths) or tense (halting, uneven breaths). It also measures your steps throughout the day, similar to a basic Fitbit. Lest you think this is all crunchy-granola nonsense, the research and science behind the device is legit — Spire was designed by Stanford University’s Calming Technology Lab.
You clip the small device to either your waistband or bra, depending on your preference and what you’re wearing.
Then you simply check the Spire app throughout the day to see your progress, measured via three leaves (calm, focus, activity). The three leaves make up a minimalist flower icon (which is kinda zen in itself) and the goal is to complete the flower each day.
As soon as you get connected, you can literally see your breathing pattern in realtime by viewing a little line in the app. Pretty cool.
Via the app, you customize your experience by setting goals for each leaf, indicating notification settings and more.
As far as the device itself goes, it’s small, reliable, unobtrusive, doesn’t show under clothes, and easily holds a charge even for a very long day. The app is extremely easy to set up and fun to use. The only less than perfect part of the experience was that when wearing my thinnest workout leggings, the weight of the device caused the material to fold over at my waist. But this feels like splitting hairs.
After using Spire for about a month, I can say that I’m a huge fan, even though I honestly expected to just be “meh” about it.
Why so Positive?
First of all … insights
By far, the thing I like most about Spire is the insights it’s helped me gather about how my mind works.
For example, I learned that I had no problem filling up my focus leaf most days, but would often barely hit 50% on calm. Before using Spire, I’m not sure if I would’ve even differentiated between focus and calm.
I also love the custom notifications you can set. I set the app to buzz the device when it detects that I’m feeling tense for 2 minutes or more. Because you’re being notified of tension in the moment, you quickly notice triggers. For me, it’s usually when I’m overstimulated, running late, experiencing rejection or feeling misunderstood (seriously!).
I also set the app to send me a push notif when I have a focus or calm streak. I’ve learned that my focus streaks happen when I lose myself in work I enjoy. Recent streaks have happened while writing, taking photos for a website I run, and attending a presentation about a company I’m fascinated by. So far my calm streaks are during meditation or reading a book, and not much else. Hmmmm.
My biggest gripe about wearables is that while they offer a lot of data, they often don’t really help you figure out what to DO with that data. This is where Spire stands out — the data is super actionable.
If you’re not hitting your goals or if you’re getting tension notifications, Spire will suggest an in-app “boost.” Boosts are quick, guided breathing exercises that help you calm down, focus or energize yourself. You can even do a full guided meditation. In other words, exercises to help you chill. the F. out. and hopefully complete your little flower ‘o calm.
The boosts worked well for me, especially for focus and calm. I do a lot of yoga and I’m familiar with how breathing techniques can impact your mental state. But it’s nice to have access to very specific, quick guidance at any time of the day. You can literally close your office door or pop outside and do a quick boost in a few minutes.
Spire is a cool little (yet deceptively powerful) device that I totally underestimated. I can honestly say that in a month’s time, I’ve learned more about my mind and how to manage stress than I have in the past several years. I find myself tracking my steps and fitness data less and less as the novelty wears off, but I can see myself sticking with Spire for the long-term. Needless to say, I won’t be taking advantage of their money-back guarantee.
Also published on Medium.