Supercharge your meditation with a brain sensing headband

I wasn't even aware this device existed, and not only does it exist but it works really well.

Recently I had the chance to test a Muse Headband out, and I thought it was very cool. Let me first explain how it works.

After powering the device on, you put it on your head. It connects via bluetooth to your phone, controlled by a free app made by the manufacturer. You then connect a pair of headphones to your phone and put them on.

The app will first check to make sure the electroencephalogram (I copy and pasted that word) sensors are reading your brainwaves properly. It uses the same technology that hospitals, clinics, and researchers have used for decades. 

If there is an obstruction, like your hair or a band-aid or something, the app will detect that and ask you to re-position the headband. Once the calibration is finished, the real experience begins.

There are a variety of mindfulness meditation features available, but I will outline the basic one here. It's very simple, yet remarkably effective.

First, you select a soundscape. For example - rainforest, beach, forest, or the city (which seems a little counterintuitive to me but to each their own). Then you select how long you'd like to meditate for.

Typically, the goal of meditation is to calm you mind. This includes your self-narration that is going on inside you head, also known as self talk or monkey mind. The headband gives you real-time feedback on how you're doing.

So for example, let's say you have chosen the rainforest soundscape. Once you have begun, the volume of the soundscape will be directly proportional to your brain activity. 

When thoughts start popping into your brain, or if you start thinking about something other than breathing, the volume of the rain will change dramatically. Not only will the volume change, but the actual type of rain. If your mind is calm, you will hear a light rainfall. If you start thinking too much, it will sound like a torrential downpour with thunder and gale force winds.

If you are able to successfully calm your mind for a set period of time, you will hear birds chirping (the app is keeping track of how many you hear/generate so you can compare your progress versus other sessions).

Once you finish meditating, you get a graph of how active your mind was. You can set goals with respect to how many minutes per week you meditate, how frequently you are reminded to use the device, and so forth.

Now you may be thinking 
a) I don't meditate or 
b) I don't need no stinking headband to meditate.

If you don't meditate but sometimes feel like you never have a free moment, I would suggest you think about meditating. Meditation has been shown to:
  • increase well-being
  • improve memory and concentration
  • induce positive neurological effects (re-wiring of the brain)
  • increase immune function
  • decrease anxiety
  • help with sleep
In addition to a host of others. (The benefits are listed in these National Institute of HealthHarvard Health , Psychology Today and  Forbes articles).

I found that the feedback this device provides helps substantially with meditation, especially if you're a beginner like me. I have tried various apps that are promoted on smartphones, and while they are good, they don't have a mechanism to get you back on track when you stray. 

by Rick Sturch


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