Smart technology helps make all areas of our lives more connected, but the downside is it can be hard to switch off. Always being on means you can struggle to make time for yourself, kick off your shoes, sit back and relax.
Now smart technology can help you put your feet up too. Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant (found in its Echo smart speakers, Fire TV streaming boxes and in your smartphone using the app) can help you unwind simply using a series of voice commands.
We’ll walk you through how it can help you chill out, from setting a bedtime routine to starting a meditation session.
Create out a chill-out space in seconds
One of the best features of Alexa is the ability to start a routine. By connecting to other smart devices, it can change the atmosphere of your house in seconds. This can be set for any scenario you can imagine, be it movie night, party time, calm Sunday morning or more. But one of its best uses is to create a nice, chilled environment in which to relax.
To create a routine, open the Alexa app on your smartphone. Tap the menu icon in the upper left corner (the three horizontal lines), then tap Routines, then the + icon above where it says ‘Create Routine’.
Tap the + icon next to ‘When this happens’ to select a trigger phrase or action, then tap Voice.
Now it’s time to enter a phrase. This will trigger the routine every time you say it, so go for something simple and descriptive, for example, “It’s bedtime”, “Start bedtime routine”, “Wind down” or something similar.
Tap Next. Now you have to add an action that the voice prompt will trigger. Tap Add action, then select one from the list. This can be playing music, dimming the lights, making an announcement, reading a story or something else.
To have Alexa announce a message, tap Messaging > Send Announcement and type in what you want Alexa to say. This could be a mantra, or something else that helps you relax. Tap Next, then select which device(s) you want the announcement to be made from. It’s useful to set it from multiple smart speakers, so you can hear it wherever you are in the house.
To start a whole routine using your other smart home devices, from the list tap Smart Home, then set actions from other devices, like dimming the lights, closing the smart blinds and starting up a relaxing playlist.
You can also activate Do Not Disturb mode, so you’ll be free from distractions like notifications, text messages and emails.
Have the world’s favourite authors lull you to sleep
It’s not just kids who need a bedtime story. Novels, poetry and non-fiction books can also helps adults fall asleep come bedtime. And Alexa can play the role of the storyteller.
It’s simple to to have Alexa read an audiobook from your Amazon device or app. To start, just say “Read [book title]”, “Read the book, [book title]” or “Read the audiobook, [book title]”. (All of these commands have to be preceded by ‘Alexa’.)
You can also pause and resume the audiobook by just saying “Pause” or “Resume my book”.
If it’s an audiobook you’ve bought through Amazon, Alexa will remember where you are in the book and pick up there automatically.
Want to skip forward to find out what happens next, or jump back to recap? Just say “Go back”, “Go forward”, or “Go to chapter [XX].” You can also say “Next chapter,” “Previous chapter” or “Restart” to begin the chapter again.
Handily, you can set a sleep timer. so Alexa will stop reading after a certain amount of time. That way, when you drop off you won’t forget where you were in the story. To do so, just say “Set a sleep timer for [X] minutes/hours” or “Stop reading the book in [X] minutes/hours”. If you’re not dropping off, you can say “Cancel sleep timer”.
Alexa can read audiobooks from Amazon’s Kindle selection or Audible (which is owned by Amazon), but not those bought from other websites.
Chill out with some relaxing music
Soothing music can help you relax at any time of the day, whether you’re reclining on the sofa in the afternoon or trying to get to sleep at night.
Alexa has plenty of Skills that can help you find relaxing tunes. Skills are essentially apps for Alexa. They’re voice-activated routines which can let you stream music from third-party services, control other smart home appliances and more.
For example, Sleep Sounds plays calming sounds to help you fall asleep, meditate or just relax. To activate it, just say “Alexa, open Sleep Sounds.” Relaxing Sounds: Spa Music is a similar deal, recreating the ambience of a spa right in your home. To activate it, say “Alexa, play Spa Music.”
Discover all Alexa’s relaxation music Skills at Amazon.co.uk.
Make some ‘me’ time with guided meditation
It used to be seen as a bit new age, but now more and more people and embracing the power of meditation. Taking a few minutes out each day to focus on your breathing can help you relax, focus and even relieve pain.
Headspace is one of the most popular meditation services, and it’s available as an Alexa Skill. It gives you hundreds of guided meditation sessions, each with their own focus, be it stress, sleep, focus or anxiety. To activate it, say “Alexa, open Headspace”. This will give you access to the Basics, Sleep Sounds and the Sleeping exercise.
If you subscribe, you can instruct Alexa to start your daily meditation, today’s meditation, access your account and more.
There are lots of other meditation Skills available for Alexa, like Guided Meditation, Meditation Timer and more. You can find more of Alexa's meditation Skills at Amazon.co.uk.