Exploring the Mindful Breathing and Luma³’s Collaboration with D4D: An Interview with Michael Crinnion, Founder of Mind Body Goals Ltd.
Luma³, a new product from Mind Body Goals Ltd is designed to guide and teach mindful breathing using light and colour. It is completely offline and gets people away from their screens and other devices so they can be undistracted during breathing exercises. It has 4 different breathing exercises to choose from, all based on well-researched patterns of breathwork that are shown to reduce stress and anxiety and boost wellbeing. We spoke with Michael Crinnion, the founder of Mind Body Goals Ltd., to learn more about Luma³.
HM: Luma³ is an offline product, which seems to be a rarity in today’s tech-driven world. Can you say a bit more about why you chose to create a device that doesn’t require screens, subscriptions or accounts?
MC: I think the main reason it’s not an app is that these exist on our smartphones – and smartphones are like the antithesis of mindfulness. They’re literally designed to grab our attention in a million different ways and are a constant source of distraction and stimulation. These aren’t helpful characteristics when we’re trying to be mindful and focus on our breath. I think it’s also important to be inclusive when designing a solution – not everyone is able to use complicated apps. Children and young people can’t sign up for accounts or pay for subscriptions and of course, there are accessibility issues with screens or verbal prompts like language barriers or literacy levels. Luma³ is designed to be easy to use and fit into anybody’s life with minimal barriers to entry and with as few distractions as possible. That way, as wide an audience as possible can access a tool for breathing exercises that are proven to work. That’s pretty compelling, I think.
HM: Absolutely. Can you explain the principles behind mindful breathing exercises and their potential benefits for mental health and wellbeing?
MC: There is a lack of media attention on the scientific side of breathing exercises that prevented me from accessing them for so long. I thought they were a bit ‘made up’ to be honest. It’s only once someone explains it to you that you sort of go “Wow! These are incredibly powerful”. The short version is that, when it comes to stress and anxiety, our bodies have two main ‘modes’. When our brain senses a threat, real or imagined, it activates our sympathetic nervous system which gets us ready to fight or run away. This was useful historically, but doesn’t help you much when you need to write an email or answer an interview question! The other mode, rest and digest, is the opposite of this and calms us down and promotes growth and healing within the body. The parasympathetic nervous system controls this. Now, the really interesting part is that one of the physiological effects in the body of these two systems is our pace and depth of breath. When we are stressed, we breathe short and shallowly, at the top of our chest. When we are relaxed, we do the opposite, longer deeper breaths into our belly. The thing is, as humans, we can override this consciously and force ourselves to breathe in the longer deeper patterns and when we do, it communicates to the brain that we are safe which in turn deactivates the stress response. It’s incredible. I don’t particularly like the term “biohacking” but this feels pretty much like the best word for it.
MC: I was lucky enough to work with some talented researchers recently, that did a literature review for me on this, because frankly, there’s so much out there showing these techniques work. The main takeaway is that breathing exercises, which are also a form of mindfulness practice, have a significant impact on both subjective experiences of stress and anxiety as well as objective measurements of hormones and brain activity. There are lots of peer-reviewed trials and studies showing this. One that really sticks in my mind is a study done at the University of Oxford in 20151 which showed that mindfulness-based therapy is “as effective as maintenance antidepressant medication in preventing relapse in recurrent depression”. Isn’t that incredible? It works just as well as taking medication!
MC: Luma³ and breathing exercises really can work for anyone and everyone – but the way they are accessed, and the desired benefits change from setting to setting. What I want to achieve through our collaboration is to get some really good feedback on the ways people use Luma³ to support their breathing exercises and fit them into the context. I guess as an example – currently, our main customers are individuals who have seen the product, researched how it works and bought it for themselves. They have time to spend with the product, watching our instructional videos and finding the best fit for their lives. However, another use would be in say a day-surgery waiting area or a maternity ward – these are obviously high-stress environments with a huge potential for anxiety and one where breathing exercises could benefit someone greatly. In this context – we don’t want the user to have to know what the product is or does, we just want them to see it and know what to do. I’m excited to work with D4D to get this feedback and use it to push forward the development of Luma³.
HM: So, our collaboration will likely also tie into the work you’re starting with RDaSH and Grounded Research within the NHS? I know you’re excited to be working with them too – how will that look?
MC: Yes, absolutely. As soon as they saw Luma³ they could see the potential for supporting mental health and particularly for young people. We’re just getting started and so the details are to be decided. Still, essentially, we all recognise that the area of mental health needs innovation, development, and improvement and we plan to collaborate on trials of Luma³ in settings within the NHS. It’s fantastic and we’ll be the only product like this working to strengthen the evidence base behind breathing exercises and mindfulness. For me – it’s not just about the success of the product but also helping to show people and the healthcare industry that – actually – there are new and innovative ways to support your mental health and wellbeing that don’t involve staring at a screen!
(1) Kuyken, Willem et al. “Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence (PREVENT): a randomised controlled trial.” Lancet (London, England) vol. 386,9988 (2015): 63-73. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)62222-4