Mindfulness has been shown to provide mental and physical health benefits to its practitioners. However, like physical exercise, mindful practices are not easy to integrate into a daily routine. Not only that, unlike physical exercise where goal setting and games can make it more engaging, making mindfulness motivating is tricky as goal-setting and other standard strategies would be contradictory with mindfulness itself.
We propose to tackle this problem with Inner Garden, an augmented sandbox that is inspired by both the reflective and metaphoric nature of zen gardens as well as the playful nature of sandboxes. The sand is used to create a miniature living world where the state of the world is influenced by the user’s real-time breathing patterns and heart rate. You can play with the sand directly with your hands, shaping the landscape. When you leave the garden alone for a moment, the vegetation starts to grow, trees appearing. The waves of the sea, as well as the wind, are controlled by your breathing patterns, helping to bring back the attention to the body. We also provided a virtual reality modality where you can choose a location inside your garden and travel there for a moment of meditation.