Those who desire to live longer, healthier lives may do well to mind body response as much as diet and exercise. Many studies have linked stress to illness, premature aging, and a host of other physical and emotional conditions. A discreet wearable, currently funding on Kickstarter, hopes to provide users with greater awareness of their stress response along with the ability to self regulate it. The Lief smart patch is designed to initiate calming exercises when heart and breathing rates show elevated levels of stress.

All of the best fitness trackers continually measure the heart's beats per minute (BPM). However, these measurements tend to focus on evaluating physical exercise and the number of calories being burned rather than mood or anxiety levels. Not only that, but recent research questions the accuracy of monitoring hearts through wrist-worn devices.

The Lief smart patch takes a different approach. Underneath the flexible silicone exterior lies a 3-axis gyroscope and an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor, both of which are designed to record movement and heart beats (with accuracy down to the millisecond). Since this patch is worn against the body – underneath the pectoral muscle to be closer to the heart – the thinking is that there will be greater reliability due to stronger signal strengths.

Lief means to help individuals by focusing on one's heart rate variability (HRV) – the amount of time between each heart beat – and how it relates to breathing cycles (speed and consistency). When stress responses are sensed, the patch initiates a biofeedback training exercise. A pair of haptic motors quietly vibrate, providing users a pattern with which to sync their breath over the course of three minutes. The creators claim that such exercises improve HRV by an average of 140 percent.

In addition to guided breathing for restoring a sense of calm, the Lief smart patch offers some potential insights through the mobile app (available for Android and iOS). Data stored on the patch is transmitted via Bluetooth, which is then presented to users through graphs and charts. Those who are more active with journaling moods, thoughts, and situations may be able to identify personal patterns or mind-body correlations.

Although Lief triggers when it senses stress, users can choose initiate one of four different training exercises to practice breathing at any time. Since the patch is worn against the body, it can be a more convenient way of reducing stress than having to pinch a Pip or smell some lemons. Lief's internal battery is designed to last up to a week of use, needing only an hour to fully charge through the micro USB port.

Despite how Lief intends to work, its method of attachment may be unfavorable to some; this smart patch eschews an adjustable chest strap in favor of ECG electrode stickers. Although such stickers are widely available and relatively inexpensive, not all skin types will find it comfortable for extended periods of time. And while Lief may be somewhat discreet at only 6 mm (about .25 in) thick, it can still show through some clothing as a strange lump.

Perhaps indicating just how desperate people are for stress relief, the Lief smart patch's Kickstarter campaign has raised 91 percent of its US$50,000 goal in three days, with another 39 days left of funding to go. Early-bird pledges for one Lief start at $179 and include a micro USB charger and eight weeks worth of Lief ECG electrode stickers.

The creators have gone through several prototypes along with small-scale production and early pilot programs. If tooling and production go according as planned, backers can expect shipments of the Lief smart patch to start as soon as July 2017.

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