Screen-bound? Four simple tips to reduce stress

Not all work is done on computer screens, but many of us spend most of our workday and even a lot of our downtime staring at monitors. And there’s actually a technology that’s launching soon that can use the PC or laptop you work on to help improve your mood, health, and performance.

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But before we dive into what breathing.ai can offer you, we also wanted to share some practical tips from the startup’s Content Marketing Director Bobby Kay on how to reduce work-related stress:

1. Minimize screen exposure at least an hour before bed. Or at least use dark mode and turn down the brightness of your screens. 

2. Consider what type of content you’re viewing at that time. Try to avoid things that are overstimulating both intellectually and visually. 

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3. Practice intentional deep breathing. Inhale slowly through the nose and expand the belly, smile (which can create “happy” hormones), and exhale with an audible sigh. A simple sigh creates twice as much air flowing into the lungs!

4. Ensure you take breaks throughout your day and track your screen time. The average US worker is on a screen for around 11 hours per day. Try to bring that average down while increasing time spent in nature and with loved ones. 


Now, if you need to spend a lot of hours in front of your computer, breathing.ai has developed a Chrome browser extension that uses its patented technology and your webcam to help reduce your stress and improve your productivity.

But how does that work? We asked Bobby that question.

He said, “The patented tech detects heart and breath rate through the webcam and backend code. Then through machine learning comes to understand how to keep a user less stressed and more productive by personalizing the screen color and design. It tests and learns how an individual’s nervous system responds and then adapts the browser color and brightness in real-time throughout the day. And when stress is detected, it offers short guided mindfulness breaks.”

“More specifically, we’re using photoplethysmography to analyze red pixelation in the forehead, as well as shoulder movements, to detect vital signs. We’ve worked with research universities and have state-of-the-art code.”

breathing.ai has collaborated with the University of Oregon on visual stimuli and meditation and with Parsons/The New School’s NSSR Lab and professor Ben van Buren to understand stress and performance from screen-based tasks.

The technology will work with any webcam. Bobby explained that red pixelation and shoulder movement changes can be detected frame by frame, even if you’re using an older webcam.

To get breathing.ai’s tech to work for you, you’ll need to let it know when you sign up what symptoms you’d like to address. And then, you’ll need to activate the Chrome extension, so a pop-up window will show up when the system detects you’re stressed or when you’ve scheduled a break yourself. After that, you can complete the exercise provided or turn on the screen shader and relax.

With breathing.ai, the company blends vital sign detection with its patented tech to individualize comfort and the experience. Its creators plan to expand beyond colors into “dynamic audio and olfactory,” which Bobby said is covered by the company’s patent.

What does color have to do with breathing.ai’s technology? “Humans are influenced by their environments, and since we spend so much time on our screens, the digital environment has enormous influence,” Bobby explained. “In the natural environment, there’s a dynamic relationship, but in the digital environment, our nervous system needs to adapt to the colors or the designs displayed. We’re changing that to make it a dynamic process where your screen works with you.”

He added, “Colors are not universal. They can be highly personal. Someone could grow up with very caring parents that wear a lot of bright red, so they’re more likely conditioned that bright red is calming and comfortable vs. somebody else who might’ve grown up having trauma with fire, so red and orange might have a more stressful impact on them.”

Bobby said his team found a fun fact about colors through internal studies. They discovered that bright green, on average, increased heart rate more than other colors, while blues and grays were more on the calming side.

He quipped, “So it’s interesting to see companies like Apple choose colors that are more comforting for their Apple to Apple users’ messaging, but bright green when communicating with non-Apple users!”

On breathing.ai’s site, the company assures that the video footage of you or the data from your webcam are all kept locally. You can disable the extension on certain websites, or you don’t even need to give it webcam access. Instead, you can opt to use the technology’s scheduled breaks feature.

The breathing.ai browser extension will be available on all major browser extension stores, like the Chrome store. It’s still in the middle of testing, but we’re told it’s launching soon. You can sign up on the website to join the waitlist and get an extended free trial upon its release.

It will have a full-featured, seven-day free trial. After that, you can subscribe at USD 3.99/mo or a discounted USD 29.99/yr. 

There is also a free option that lets you manually set breaks and screen shading. You can upgrade at any time to use vital sign detection and adaptive interfacing features.