Owning a smartphone means you’re never away from your work. This is great for communication – at any given moment, you can check in on email, chat with colleagues, and delve into social media; but it doesn’t leave you with much time to switch off – and that can result in stress and anxiety.
However, just as the best camera is the one you have on you, the same is true for any other kind of app – including those that help with downtime. If you’re feeling the strain, and desperately need to heighten concentration or relax – and all in a handful of seconds – you’d best hope there’s an app for that.
Thanks to Digg co-founder Kevin Rose, there is: Oak.
A faster way to calm
Oak’s main screen is divided into three sections: Meditate, Breathe, and Sleep. On reading those headings, you might wonder if you’ll be hurled down a zen retreat rabbit hole, or have to start talking about your chakras; however, Oak is resolutely minimal and modern in approach. This is a no-nonsense app about relaxation – aiming for speed, with no messing about.
That might sound like a contradiction, given that Oak is primarily about relaxation, but you’ll likely be a convert on checking out the breathing exercises. Respectively, Deep Calm, Box, and Awake are billed as a ‘natural tranquilizer’, a means of heightening performance and concentration, and a ‘replacement for coffee’ that gives you quick energy bursts.
In all cases, you stare at a pulsating disc that indicates when to breathe in and out. The specific timing of the exercises is key, doing clever things to your insides. The few ‘reps’ each exercise offers can leave you feeling soothed or reinvigorated.
The point is that you need only seconds to feel a bit better, and so any instinct to hide your phone away to improve your wellbeing is misplaced – and that’s the case if you have more time to spare as well.
Get ‘in the moment’
Oak’s Meditate section offers another trio of options: Mindful; Loving Kindness; Unguided. Broadly speaking, the first of those can serve as an introduction to mindfulness – helping you be attentive and in the moment; Loving Kindness involves cultivating a deeper appreciation of yourself and others; and Unguided is about venturing out on your own, through custom sessions.
Again, these options are designed to slot into a busy working life. Want a quick slice of guided meditation? The Mindful option starts at just ten minutes (and is smart enough to skip the intro, if you’ve used it before) – and Unguided at five. This isn’t to say you should always aim to meditate, relax, or do breathing exercises for as little time as possible, of course – but it does mean when you need to be efficient in these things, the option is there.
This even extends to repeat visits. Oak remembers what you did recently, and provides quick-access buttons across the top of its main screen. And if you’re in it for the long haul, the Growth tab tracks your progress. Neatly, it also displays how many people are currently using the app. That part is labelled ‘Community’, but is a long way from an online forum that could eat into your time. Instead, its handful of figures feels eminently suited to Oak’s streamlined approach – and it proves nicely reassuring when you see other people are, in that moment, using it too.
Oak is available for iOS and is free from the App Store.