I wanted to add a short meditation to my daily routine. I am new to meditation and just wanted a short breathing exercise (box breathing) I could do in the morning to prepare myself for the day. With coronavirus and people often being stuck inside and sometimes isolated from others, I thought I should make it public as the idea could also help other people.

What it does

The skill guides you through 1 minute of a technique called Box Breathing (also known as 4 square breathing). It is a paced breathing that follows a certain rhythm and can help minimise stress. After alexa guides you through the breathing instructions she will give you an encouraging affirmation for the day. If it is in the morning it will be one aimed at having a great day. Otherwise it will be a more general affirmation. Alexa will then ask if you would like her to continue playing relaxing music. If you say yes, she will play relaxing sounds for 3 minutes and then stop. if you say no she will just stop.

How I built it

I used the ASK-SDK and focused on APL. I added images that I thought were relaxing to be in the background and then I animated a circle and text to give the user instructions and a bit of an extra guide on how to do the breathing exercise. I used SSML quite heavily to soften Alexa's voice to make it more relaxing. I even used the whisper mode on the re-prompt as I thought some users may have become very relaxed after the meditation and not want to be disturbed. I used APL-A to mix the SSML breathing instructions from Alexa with relaxing background music. (AWS, lambda, S3, Cloudwatch)

Challenges I ran into

  • Failed first submission for the invocation name: Meditate for a Minute. Had to change the invocation name to box breathing.
  • Timing for the animation and Alexa speaking being synced up.
  • I ended up using the on mount command which meant the affirmation had to be at the end rather than how i planned to have it at the start. But i think it works better how it is now.
  • I think it jumps into the breathing instructions a bit quickly and I think a first time user may want to know a bit more before they start. But because the whole thing is short and easy to understand when I tested it on a friend they immediately knew what to do without any idea what 4 square breathing.
  • I would quite like SSML and animations to be linked. To have a tag which you could add that would fire an animation after a word has been spoken would really help making even cooler APL animations.
  • Alexa layout background image does not show on developer console but does on all my devices. This is a slight concern it may not work on all devices.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I feel like I have created something that is a quick getaway and should hopefully help people's health. It should be easy to add to a routine and it may lead them to discover meditation and inspire them to do more.

What I learned

A bit more about animation with APL and how easy it is to add APLA to a skill.

What's next for Box Breathing (Meditate for a Minute)

  • Maybe more breathing exercise options and longer content. But I feel like the value of the skill is an introduction and helps in making meditation a routine. But if I decided to use ISP in the skill longer meditation sessions with professionals would be the way to go. -Thanks to APLA it will be easy to add more audio content if users want that.
  • Maybe linking to another meditation skill from headspace or calm if the user is engaged as these companies will be able to provide more content. They may consider a referral fee.
  • Maybe options on what sort of affirmation you would like at the end.

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