No doubt Arianna Huffington, the founder of the Huffington Post and one of Forbes' most Influential Women in Media, is a busy lady—stressed, even, one might assume, at least some of the time. So what does a power player like Ms. Huffington do to relieve stress? She makes an app for it.
GPS for the Soul measures your heart rate, tells you what your stress level is, and provides a selection of guides designed to restore your mental balance. We test-drove it during a typical workweek to see if relaxation can really be found in an app.
First, you measure your heart rate by placing a finger over your phone's camera lens. The app uses a tool called HeartMath to measure your pulse and assign a stress level to your bpm (beats per minute). Keep in mind that resting heart rates depend on your age, weight, and sex, along with other factors, but it's safe to say that the average person's bpm is 70. Since I'm smaller than the average person, one might look at me and assume my average bpm would be even lower, but the first time I gave the app a whirl, my heart was beating at a whopping 96—all while I was actively trying to breathe calmly and think happy thoughts.
I looked through a few of the preloaded guides, but nothing soothes me less than a slideshow of stock art (sunsets, horses, babies—you get the idea) and Mother Teresa quotes set to a soundtrack of synthesized wind chimes and gently crashing waves that wouldn't be out of place in a back-and-foot-rub joint. Fortunately, you have the option to make your own guide by uploading photos from your personal library or the Web and tracks from your iTunes collection.
My first de-stressing attempt.
The next day I checked my heart rate again, this time feeling much calmer after a decent night's sleep and a good morning workout, and I'm pleased to report my bpm was purring softly at a mere 58.
As I write this, the app's handy daily alarm (which reminds me to "check in with myself") just went off, which means it's time to measure my pulse again, but the thought of coming in over 58 has me a little stressed. Still, knowing I can monitor my bpm and take a mini-meditation break during work (set to my own pictures and music, thank you very much) is a calming thought.
Platforms: iOS, Android
Pros: I like that I have the ability to measure my bpm anywhere and make adjustments to my day accordingly. You can also invite friends and socialize (share guides, tips, and heartwarming thoughts, I suppose), but that's the kind of thing I try to get away from when I want to relax. And despite the vast selection of seriously cheesy guides, I do like the built-in breathing monitor that comes with them—a light-gray circle that "pulses" so you can follow along and slow your breath accordingly.
Cons: There are a few dead buttons in the navigation right now, but I expect those will be fixed in the next upgrade.
—Perrin Drumm (@perrindrumm), associate Web editor at Details