As soon as I started researching for this article, I found that tons of users are annoyed by the Breathe app. They don’t understand why they should use it, they hate the notifications, they can’t tell if the notifications are timed to specific instances, and they’d altogether prefer to forget the built-in Apple Watch app existed.
So it seems odd that Apple would invest so much into this app if so many users hate it. After all, it has dedicated watch faces. Not even the Workout app has that – I checked!
This begs the question – why is the Breathe app so important, what is it for, and should you be using it?
There are several reasons why the Breathe app is important (which I’ll touch on near the end of this article), but one of the most prominent reasons is that this app is a great introduction to meditation. And whether you’re spiritual or not, you probably have a lot to gain from meditation.
In this post, I’ll show you the ins and outs of the Breathe app (there are a lot, considering how simple the app seems) and explain why I think it’s one of the more important apps on your Apple Watch.
Let’s get started!
How to use the Breathe app on Apple Watch
Without touching the settings, the Breathe app is super simple to use. By default, you’ll get two reminders to breathe a day. When these come up, tap on them, then tap Start. This will start a breathe session.
For the next few minutes, you’ll breathe alongside your Apple Watch, with your eyes open or closed. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, so don’t feel like you have to “clear your mind” or anything like that. I’ll explain the animations and haptics in a second. For now, just breathe.
When your time is up, you’ll get a little chime. On your Apple Watch you’ll see your heart rate, breaths taken, and time spent breathing. At the start of each week, you’ll get a special notification containing your Breathe stats for the previous week.
And that’s (basically) all there is to it!
Choosing your breath rate
While the app seems simple on the surface (it only features one screen and apparently no settings) there is a surprising amount of customization when it comes to your breathe sessions.
Let’s start with your breath rate.
On your Apple Watch, tap the Settings app, scroll down, and tap Breathe. This brings up the settings for the Breathe app. By scrolling down a bit more, you’ll see Breath Rate. Tap it.
This controls how many breaths your Apple Watch asks you to take during a breathe session. The more breaths you take, the shorter each will be. Fewer or more breaths aren’t good or bad per se. It comes down to what you feel comfortable with and how much you want to slow down.
Personally, I like to take slower breaths through my mouth, making a bit of noise as I do so. I find it the most calming for me. You might find this frustrating, however, and would be better off taking shorter breaths. Play around and find what works for you.
Choosing how long you want to meditate
You can also set how long you want to meditate pretty easily within the Breathe app. To do so, open the Breathe app on your Apple Watch. Your screen should be showing the blue Breathe flower with a button that says Start as well as how long your meditation is set for and how many breaths you’re set to take.
To increase the length of your meditation session (and how many breaths you’ll be taking) rotate the Digital Crown on the side of your Apple Watch. You’ll see the petals on the blue Breathe flower increase, as well as the time listed in the top-right corner.
At the time of writing, you can only choose in minutes, not seconds, but I haven’t found this to be an issue.
Special thanks to one of our readers, Mariann, for suggesting I include this section!
Understanding the animation and vibrations
Ok, so it’s time to explain the animations and haptics that the Breathe app gives you. You can technically turn haptics off and just ignore the animation, but let me explain what they’re for first.
Essentially, they’re there to help you time your breath. By default, your haptics is set to Prominent. This means that as you feel the haptics move on your wrist, you should be inhaling. When they stop, you should be exhaling. The animation on your wrist represents this – it grows on inhales and shrinks on exhales.
If you set your haptics to Minimal, as I have done, you’ll receive one tap when you’re supposed to inhale and two taps when you’re supposed to exhale. You can of course turn these off and breathe however you like. Again, your comfort should dictate this. There’s no right or wrong.
Starting a meditation session with the Breathe app
At this point, I believe we’ve covered all of the bases on how the Breathe app works. Mechanically, you should understand it now, and you might’ve even given it a whirl.
So let’s bring meditation into the equation.
If you’ve never meditated before, don’t worry! It’s pretty simple. You can sit in the typical crisscross pose with your hands on your knees and back straight, eyes open or closed, and start your breathe session from here. You can also do this while sitting in a chair or while walking (though walking is generally considered more advanced).
Next, focus on your breath until your session is over. The haptics helps here – it’s why I prefer this app to meditating in pure silence. If you get distracted, don’t worry; it doesn’t mean you messed up. The purpose of meditation isn’t to stop being distracted, but to notice when you are distracted. As long as you notice your mind unfocusing from your breath, you’re on the right track.
And that’s it! Pretty simple, huh?
How long should you meditate?
Before moving onto the “deeper” questions about meditation with the Breathe app, let’s get into meditation length. In my experience, this is one of the biggest setbacks for people new to meditation. They try and set a goal that is too high, get frustrated before the end of the session, and give up.
I’ve been meditating for a few years and have read a few books on the subject, and believe that the magic number for beginners is… one minute! That’s it. If you don’t know how long you should be meditating, the answer is probably just one minute.
This is a very short amount of time, and you may feel like the session ends right as you start to get into it. That’s ok! All you’re trying to do is set a routine and get comfortable with the act of meditating.
As time goes on, you can increase this one minute at a time. There’s no rush – if you need weeks or months of practice with one minute, that’s ok. Don’t increase the time until you feel comfortable doing so.
Additionally, I’d recommend doing this once per day to start rather than the default twice per day.
Is the Breathe app on Apple Watch good for meditation?
Yes and no. If you know nothing about meditation, then I’d say probably not. You can check out this post for a list of meditation apps that are more beginner-friendly. There just isn’t enough direction given by the app for this purpose.
If you’re more experienced, however, then I think it’s probably one of the better options for Apple users. It’s integrated, simple, and free. You have a lot of control, can minimize distractions, and set it to remind you throughout the day.
Additionally, I’ve found that the haptics is a great substitute for a guided meditation. Guided sessions are great, but can sometimes feel a little too easy, as if I’m just listening to a podcast with my eyes closed. This app helps me focus on my breath without distracting me the entire time.
In short, I’d recommend it to those who already meditate. If you’re new, try a few guided meditations to get a feel for what it’s about, then come back to this app afterward.
Do you have to meditate to use the Breathe app?
Of course not! You can use this app to count your breaths when you get angry, stressed, or panicked. You can use it to cool down after a workout. And you can even just use it as a way to regroup at work. I just happen to think it makes for a great meditation tool and enjoy using it as such.
How to turn off Breathe alerts on Apple Watch
If you aren’t sold on the greatness of the Breathe app, don’t worry – you aren’t alone. Luckily, those who don’t enjoy this app can easily fix this problem.
First, you can uninstall the app by holding your finger on its icon on your Apple Watch. When it starts to jiggle, an ‘x’ will appear. Tap this ‘x’ to delete the app.
If you want to keep the app but don’t want to see any more notifications, open the Settings app on your Apple Watch. From here, tap Breathe, disable Weekly Summary, and set your Breathe Reminders to none.
Make the Breathe app work for you
In my opinion, the Breathe app is one of the best apps on Apple Watch, alongside Reminders and Workout. And I feel that way because you can make the app your own. It’s such a simple tool that there isn’t a right or wrong way to use it. You can use it to deepen (or start!) your meditation practice, regroup after a stressful interaction at work, or calm down after a road rage incident.
So before you disable it, tinker with the settings and give it a second chance. I think you’ll be glad you did.