The Breathing Butterfly App is Now Available!

iTunes Google Play Amazon Press Release The Breathing Butterfly website


It sounds so simple: you take a deep breath when a butterfly opens its wings, and exhale when they close. Yet the research is clear: a few deep breaths can really help with toxic stress. Our free app has a soothing game that echoes gentle breathing, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) visualization in many languages. Use our simple yet profound tool – a sweet butterfly metaphor – to move from “fight or flight” to “relaxation response.” 

We proudly present the “Breathing Butterfly” app created in collaboration with the team from Tip-Tok. Originally designed with young users in mind to help aid in relaxation and relief for anxious bodies, it’s being enjoyed by users of all ages. 

Soothing music combined with gentle animation and (optional) supportive dialog promote calm, regular breathing to aid in exploring inner peace. The dialog is provided in dozens of different languages and the user can choose from four styles of wings for their butterfly.

A tranquil game follows the animation where the player can use their butterfly to calmly fly through the beautiful skies and explore at their very own pace, collecting points along the way. Once all the points are collected, a beautiful surprise awaits! It’s a simple game meant to teach users to relax, breathe, and enjoy the moment.

You can help. Click here to find out how!

Elfenworks “In Harmony With Hope” works to cultivate hope through creative and technological solutions that advance change.  You can use this app – and the other tools on our site – to help make a positive difference. Check out our teacher tips at As we say, “Never underestimate your ripple!”  For further information on making a ripple, see

Welcome to The Breathing Butterfly

We mean it when we say ‘help one, help many, cause a ripple.’ By helping one person cope with stress, you just can’t predict in what interconnected way you’re changing the world for the better…  Just as a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can change the weather in another, helping one child can change how tomorrow unfolds in ways we cannot know. That’s been called the ‘butterfly effect.’ That’s one reason we entitled our stress-protection project after butterflies. Another is that butterflies are generally well liked, across cultures.

We all know that kids experience stress for many reasons (e.g., high poverty, homelessness, illness, hospital stays, loss of loved ones, parental divorce, the experience of bullying, trauma…).  So do adults. Research focused on the effects of stress has shown that stress leads to the release of cortisol.1 Long-term exposure to cortisol has many negative health outcomes, such as insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.234 In addition, cortisol release has also been shown to reduce some components of memory performance.5   In short, long-term stress is bad for us. This project aims to help.

Our process design with The Breathing Butterfly

Identify Chasm

While building the original website for the Stanford Center on Poverty & Inequality, we learned of research on the toxic effects of stress on children, as well as how Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) can help calm young minds and bodies. MBSR can reduce both base-line cortisol levels and cortisol release during stressful events.6  When we didn’t find free, high-quality, multi-lingual stress-protection resources matching our vision exactly, in languages most often seen in homeless shelters, we set about to fill the chasm ourselves.  

Create Change

We set about to build The Breathing Butterfly resources, starting by researching the languages we’d find in homeless shelters, to be certain to include them.  We used simple and straightforward images to develop a pleasing, easy, and memorable way to cope with stress. We created videos, then partnered with Tip-Tok, an app developer for kids. We listened to feedback from teachers to add educator tools. We’re adding new languages regularly. We found a wider audience than we’d imagined, including adult users. 

Amplify Success

After we launched The Breathing Butterfly, we took it into the classroom, teaching educators how to use it. We feel that this healthy stress-protection visualization, practiced regularly, can help insulate against some of the harm caused by unchecked stress. In an effort to decrease the negative psychological and physiological effects of acute and chronic stress, we are reaching out to parents, teachers, youth groups, educational institutions, weekend festival attendees, and hospitals in an effort to bring the Breathing Butterfly to more people.

You can help amplify the success of this project, by using the Breathing Butterfly resources or by suggesting them to contacts who might find them useful.   These resources are freely available at Do you see a chasm, as regards the language that you speak fluently? See our detail page on how to help with THIS project. Or you can find other ways to make a ripple, on our ripple page. We thank you for your caring heart for kids!


1. Hammerfald, K., C. Eberle, M. Grau, A. Kinsperger, A. Zimmermann, U. Ehlert, and J. Gaab. “Persistent effects of cognitive-behavioral stress management on cortisol responses to acute stress in health subjects – A randomized controlled trial.” Psychoneuroendrocrinology 33 (2006): 333-39.
2. Dimsdale, Joel E., Paul Mills, Thomas Patterson, Michael Ziegler, and Elaine Dillon. “Effects of Chronic Stress on Beta-Edrenergic Receptors in the Homeless.” Psychosomatic Medicine 56 (1994): 290-95.
3. Hammerfald, K., C. Eberle, M. Grau, A. Kinsperger, A. Zimmermann, U. Ehlert, and J. Gaab. “Persistent effects of cognitive-behavioral stress management on cortisol responses to acute stress in health subjects – A randomized controlled trial.” Psychoneuroendrocrinology 33 (2006): 333-39.
4. Ranjit, Nalini, Elizabeth A. Young, and George A. Kaplan. “Material hardship alters the diurnal rhythm of salivary cortisol.” International Journal of Epidemiology 34 (2005): 1138-143.
5. Newcomer, John W., Gregg Selke, Angela K. Melson, Tamara Hershey, Suzanne Craft, Katherine Richards, and Amy L. Alderson. “Decreased Memory Performance in Healthy Humans Induced by Stress-Level Cortisol Treatment.” ARCH GEN PSYCHIATRY 56 (1999): 527-33.
6. MacLean, Christopher R.K., Kenneth G. Walton, Stig R. Wenneberg, Debra K. Levitsky, Joseph P. Mandarino, Rafiq Waziri, Stephen L. Hillis, and Robert H. Schneider. “Effects of the transcendental meditation program on adaptive mechanisms: Changes in hormone levels and responses to stress after 4 months of practice.” Psychoneuroendrocrinology 22 (1997): 277-95.

PLEASE NOTE: if you are a shelter volunteer, it’s important for you to check with your the shelter director before enthusiastically jumping in… with proper permissions and training, you avoid unintended problems in areas that are intending to bring only help and healing.  Please let us know your results, and how we can make this a more helpful page!



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