Years before his journey to becoming the founder of breathing.ai, Hannes Bend felt burned out, disconnected and depressed until he discovered mindfulness and breathwork. The practices transformed his life to live healthy and happy. Still, it wasn’t only about the physical benefits of changing one’s mind through meditation or other relaxation techniques. It also gave him a renewed sense of purpose that inspired him even more deeply within himself; than ever before! As someone who had been relying on technology too heavily for many hours per day during workdays (11 h average), finding balance was challenging at best–until breathing.ai came into the picture as an idea that could solve those problems once resolved in its interface design.
Hannes’s work has been recognized by top researchers, including National Medal of Science winner Michael Posner from 2014 to 2018 and most recently by Rai Winslow, Director of Life Science and Medicine Research at Northeastern University. He received awards and grants for his VR/AR biofeedback projects such as the Best Presentation Award at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Spring Symposia 2016 at Stanford University. His team creates products that seamlessly integrate into personalized screens to relax screen users without additional time spent recording video or installing apps. Allowing users to focus their attention solely on where it belongs: inside this world, you’re already exploring via your computer screens. The technological development became patented by the USPTO in 2019 for their novel personalized machine learning biofeedback.
I met Hannes a few weeks ago. As someone who is also passionate about improving mental health, I was immediately interested in his company’s mission. I’m super excited to be a part of helping Hannes share his message.
Here’s a piece of our initial conversation which I hope will inspire you to seek healthier screen time in 2022 and beyond!
JW: How does what you do help others improve their mental health?
HB: Our technologies provide relaxing exercises to reduce stress and improve performance. I have been guiding meditation and breathwork extensively in schools, companies, jails, universities, and museums before developing pioneering and award-winning technologies to scale the benefits to more people.
breathing.ai is a digital health enterprise that provides relaxing screens exercises to reduce stress and improve performance as an employee wellness program and a freemium model for individual consumers.
It integrates wellness practices into everyone’s daily life, even the busy folk, through our first patented automated browser extension for Chromium-based browsers. Without the need for additional screen time or wearables, our browser extension helps to create healthy habits automatically.
breathing.ai’s browser extension learns the user’s stress levels and adapts the screen colors in real-time. It also offers break reminders when the user needs them. So how is the user’s health and performance affected as we spend long days working at our screens?
Developed based on extensive research, the breathing.ai Chrome extension is built on state-of-the-art machine learning that uses the webcam to detect breathing and heart rate and when the user may need a break from the screen and work. Based on which ones are the most calming or performance-improving, personalized break reminders are either breath work, meditation, movement, or simply a suggested break from the screen. The over 100 exercises include simple short deep breathing as breathwork, body scan as meditations, shoulder rolls for movements, or a short walk for just a break from screens. All exercises offer 20 seconds to 2 minutes short practices to build mindfulness and wellness into the daily flow. The extension also provides soothing background sounds.
breathing.ai’s long-term mission is to personalize technological devices to each user’s well-being and performance using our patented “Adaptive Interfaces.” We are currently focused on making screens adaptive to vital signs, and our long-term vision and patent aim to create adaptive interfaces for audio and olfactory devices. Our interfaces, adaptive to the user’s nervous system, will be used only for screens but also as voice assistants and other audio use cases, personalized diffusers and other olfactory devices, personalized IoT, cars, and all interface-based technological interactions.
JW: What are your biggest distress tips?
HB: Relaxing our shoulders, taking the slowest possible inhale with a smile – and exhaling with a simple sigh. Relaxing and focusing on our breathing brings us into the present moment away from our busy thoughts. Slowing down our breathing calms our nervous system, and smiling (even if we don’t feel like it) creates so called “happy hormones” in our bodies. And a simple sigh – as letting go exhale – has scientifically shown to allow twice as much air to flow into our lungs on the next inhale.
Do this a few times and sense how you’re feeling – guaranteed to uplift your mood!
JW: How do you avoid burnout and a stressful day?
HB: One of the best ways I have found to handle stress is by trying to be with kind people and in nature, looking at water or sky. This has had an incredible effect on my mood because when you’re around these things that are so beautiful it makes everything else seem less important!
And of course always smiling as much as possible, relaxing one’s body and shoulders and taking deep breaths.
JW: What are your main tip for successful habits to improve your well-being ?
HB: Keep repeating it. Habituation is repetition, consistency, and persistence. When the will decreases, work on habituating the choice to keep refocusing on creating the habit, especially when the feeling and motivation are low. That’s when progress on habituation is being made.
JW: What keeps you motivated?
HB: Making people feel happier and healthier. Whenever I was able to help people take deeper breaths, relax their bodies more, and enjoy life more fully. I am driven to improve global health by creating personalized technological interactions centered around human wellbeing.
For more, follow Hannes on Instagram.