This past fall, Fitbit went hard on mental well-being with its Sense smartwatch, which introduced an electrodermal activity sensor (EDA) to help quantify your stress levels. It was a thoughtful addition that went above and beyond the typical breathing reminders you see on smartwatches. Now, the company is hoping to lure more users to its Premium subscription level by partnering with Deepak Chopra to launch a guided-meditation program.
If you’re somehow unfamiliar with Chopra, he’s a New Age meditation guy who hangs out with Oprah. Fitbit’s launching a “Mindful Method” collection, led by Chopra, which includes more than 30 curated audio and video meditation sessions to help users de-stress. (So long as they have a paid Premium subscription.) Each session is 20 minutes or less, and is meant to act as a quick breather from the hellscape we’ve all endured for the past year. The collection will launch with 10 sessions to start, and topics will range from topics like managing your emotions and stress relief to resetting bad moods and fitting mindfulness into your day.
Knowing all that, I tried to keep an open mind during a recent Fitbit briefing, in which I got to try a guided meditation session with Chopra himself. I, too, am a stressed mess living and working in a tiny studio apartment with my husband, screamy cat, and clingy dog. Chopra has a soothing voice, and it does take the edge off when his deep, calming intonation tells you when to breathe and which affirmative mantras you should repeat to yourself. Even though my cat screamed the entire time and Slack kept dinging with notifications, I got the general gist—and it’s pretty similar to what you’d find in Calm or Headspace. And yes, I did feel more tranquil for about two minutes after the session ended, until said cat knocked over his water bowl and I once again became a resident of Stressville.
I’ll admit it’s a timely feature, given how several health institutions have sounded the alarm over mental health during the pandemic. Mindfulness apps like Calm and Headspace saw a massive surge in downloads in 2020, and on the wearables front, we’ve seen a rise in recovery-focused features in recent months. Apple’s recently launched Fitness+ feature, Time to Walk, has recruited celebrity guests to tell inspiring stories while you meander. This is sort of Fitbit’s version. Time to Meditate, if you will, but with one guest: Deepak Chopra.
But you can find guided meditation pretty much everywhere online these days. Sure, Fitbit’s version is more thoughtful than most wearables. You can view your stress score, as well as keep a daily log of your moods and emotions in the app. And aside from this new series with Chopra, the $10/month Premium subscription already offers 100+ guided meditations from a series of wellness partners, including Aaptiv, Aura, Breethe, and Ten Percent Happier. Honestly, I was hoping there would be more of an interactive element, especially with the Sense’s shiny new EDA sensor.
After all, isn’t that the whole point of meditating with a wearable? I had limited success with a similar device, the Muse S headband, which measures your biometric data as you meditate. That’s nice, but the data you get is limited to your sessions. The benefit of Fitbits is they can track your metrics 24/7, not just during a 20-minute meditation. You could, theoretically, take an EDA reading before and after each session but that’s limited to Sense owners. Also, that still doesn’t really leverage the full strength of Fitbit’s platform.
According to Fitbit, an interactive element was eschewed in favor of broader access.
“Mindful Method will be in Premium to begin with to ensure users with any Fitbit device has access and can engage with the sessions,” a Fitbit spokesperson told Gizmodo. “We are looking at opportunities to integrate with EDA in the future.”
While I’m not sure these sessions will convince any but the most diehard Chopra fans to shell out for Fitbit Premium, it’s encouraging to see Fitbit build on its mindfulness features. I just wish it wasn’t such a blatant attempt to get people to sign up for Premium.