Veterans' stories of stress, loneliness inspired this meditation app – Mashable

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Image: 360i
2016%2f10%2f18%2f6f%2f2016101865slbw.6b8ca.6b5d9By Sasha Lekach

Veterans dealing with stress have a new option for self-care, and they don’t need to leave the house to use it.

Those dealing with sleep issues, pain, anger, loneliness, or anxiety after serving in the military or transitioning out can turn to a new meditation app for help. 

The Bravo Tango Brain Training app was designed specifically for veterans with the guidance of a former Air Force psychologist and combat vet. The voice-powered app uses Google Assistant and helps reduce stress with meditation, breathing, and mindfulness prompts. It was released this week in honor of Veteran’s Day.

Dr. Michael Valdovinos, the former Air Force psychologist who wrote most of the app’s content,  specializes in the intersection of technology and behavioral health. He tapped into his experiences in the military and his mental health background to create exercises for the voice-controlled program that lets users interact with a machine.

“It’s a really a powerful tool,” he said in a phone call Friday. “It’s responding based on how you’re doing and what you’re saying.”

After asking, “OK, Google, start Bravo Tango,” users can begin talking to the app. Tell it, “I’m feeling lonely” or “I’m in pain,” and it will respond accordingly and bring up an appropriate exercise based on the real-time conversation.

The psychologist sees interactive engagement appealing for veterans who usually experience meditation or other mindfulness exercises by plugging in headphones and having directions told to them. The app attempts to mimic an in-person session.

Valdovinos also hopes veterans will be drawn to the app because it’s accessible and available in a safe space: at home. 

“Run with it and see where it takes you,” he encouraged. “Worst case scenario it won’t understand you.” 

But knowing Google, it should understand you just fine and get you straight into exercises that involve breathing, focusing, grounding, visualization, interpersonal connection, and muscle relaxation.  

The app came together through a collaboration with National Geographic, 360i, Xapp, and, of course, Google. NatGeo had produced the series, The Long Road Home, which followed military members returning from service. Their stories prompted NatGeo to create the mental health app. 

The app is available now through the Google Assistant app on Google Home devices and on Android devoices. Valdovinos hopes the veteran community will discover the app and integrate it into their self-care practices.

“Get into the app and start that dialogue right away,” he suggested.

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