The ball has been shown to reduce anxiety by up to 75 percent and protect against anxiety-driven thoughts – also known as anxiety. And all thanks to the fact that the ball “breathes”.
At a time when mental health problems are rampant, there are – fortunately – different ways to promote mental health. One of these methods – a very simple one – simply involves becoming fully aware of your breathing. It has already been shown to reduce anxiety and increase well-being. But many people find it difficult to focus on their breathing (for long) and soon find their minds wandering, missing the positive effects breathing techniques can have on mental health.
Alex Farrall, a student at the University of Bath, has come up with a solution to this problem. He has developed a “breathing” ball. The subjects’ breathing rhythm is recorded by sensors, and the ball then expands and contracts in the same rhythm. “When people hold the ball, their breath becomes a physical object in their hand,” Farrall explains. “They can feel the airflow and see it as the ball expands and contracts (…) By physically shaping the breath, this ball increases self-awareness.” It also becomes easier to focus on breathing. “I hope this device can be part of the solution that people with mental health issues are looking for.”
Experience suggests that the ball can actually make a big difference. During these experiments, test subjects were asked to focus on their breathing using audio recordings from a meditation app. Half of the test subjects were given the “breathe” ball. The experiment reveals that people who used the ball saw their anxiety levels decrease by an average of approximately 75 percent. In people who only listened to the meditation app, their feelings of anxiety decreased by only 31%. The combination of meditation and the ball has also been shown to provide 56% better protection against anxiety than meditation alone. In addition, people who held the ball showed higher heart rate variability, indicating that they were better able to regulate their emotions and deal better with stress than people who only listened to the app.
At home or in the clinic
Ultimately, if it were up to Farrall, the ball would end up being used by people in mental health clinics and at home. At home, for example, people can use it to regulate their emotions or focus better during meditation exercises. In a clinical setting, the ball can be used to make people more receptive to other interventions that require the patient’s full concentration.
However, before we see the ball again at home or in the clinic, more research is needed. For example, Farrall wants to conduct a larger study to map the health benefits of the ball. The ball also needs more development; For example, the experiments used sensors that were taped to people’s bodies and recorded their breathing rhythm, and the resulting data was then sent to the ball via a computer, so the ball could imitate breathing. But in the future, Farrall would like to develop a wireless ball. This can be done, for example, by connecting the ball via Bluetooth to a smart watch that records breathing. This ball can therefore be used anywhere – at home, in the garden, at the clinic or on vacation.