This Brain-Reading Headband Is the Perfect Meditation Coach

Muse
Muse

I’m sitting on my bed, eyes closed and legs crossed, when a parade of unwanted thoughts clogs my consciousness. Are we running low on coffee filters? Did I remember to send the rent check? Should I add another step to my skincare routine? Inevitably, these thoughts are followed by a familiar refrain: This isn’t working. I’m wasting my time. Maybe meditation isn’t for me.

It’s a pattern I’ve grown used to after roughly 15 years of trying to start and maintain a meditation practice. Most sessions end with me feeling unsatisfied and giving up on building a routine until enough time has passed and I inevitably start the cycle again. This case, though, is different. Instead of overtaking me, my intrusive thoughts are interrupted by the sound of crashing waves playing from my phone. It’s loud enough to catch my attention without being jarring. I feel the chatter at the front of my brain melt into the background, and the rest of my body relaxes in response.

When the session ends, I’m sure I’ve achieved the mindfulness I’ve sought for so long. But I don’t need to rely on my memory to tell me that—the Muse app has been keeping track of everything for me. It shows me that after about three minutes of bouncing between neutral and active, my brainwaves resided in the neutral-to-calm space until the timer rang at the 10-minute mark. It also logged other statistics that I could review, like how many times I sustained a quiet mind or reined in my active thoughts.

Mindfulness From A Headband

Muse consists of an app and a specially designed headband that uses brain-sensing technology to teach mindfulness. Sensors in the headband measure brainwaves, while a soundscape playing through the app provides feedback on the wearer’s mental state in real time.

When I was first given the chance to review the company’s new Muse S headband, I was skeptical. Meditation is supposed to be about letting go, so wouldn’t an app that cheers you on when you get it right and scolds you when you get it wrong defeat the purpose? Sticking something on my head that was supposed to sense my thoughts also seemed a little, well, freaky.

At the same time, I was eager to try something that made the daunting task of making my mind shut up for a few minutes feel less intimidating. No matter how many times I’ve given up on meditation, there’s always been something that convinces me to give it another shot—usually it’s a new article touting the mental and physical benefits of the exercise. Meditation has been found to promote focus, alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, and even relieve lower back pain. But the best way to reap these benefits is through regular practice—not half-hearted attempts a few times a year. I knew I should be meditating consistently; I just didn’t know where to begin. A mind-reading headband seemed as good a starting point as any.

How Muse Works

The technology behind Muse is called electroencephalography. The headband’s sensors detect electrical impulses emitted by the brain and uses them to detect how calm or active the wearer’s thoughts are. It’s the same method doctors use to diagnose epilepsy and certain sleep disorders.

In a hospital setting, electroencephalographs are administered by attaching metal electrodes to a patient’s scalp. Lucky for me, Muse’s setup is much more comfortable. The flexible headband of the S model is made from soft fabric with a small piece of hardware in the front that detaches easily for charging. It’s an upgrade from the original Muse, which is made from stiff plastic that hooks around the ears like a pair of glasses. After the device is strapped snugly across my forehead, it’s easy to imagine I'm wearing a comfy sweatband, and eventually, I forget I’m wearing anything at all.

A picture of the Muse S headband.
Muse

Before I can start meditating, I need to customize my experience. Muse offers several soundscapes, including beach, rainforest, city park, desert, and ambient noise. Still mourning the end of a recent trip to Florida and dreading the approach of winter, I choose beach. I also have the option to select instructions that will be read aloud before my session. Some exercises focus on a different aspect of meditation, like breathing, sitting comfortably, or dealing with distractions. I go with Muse’s introductory exercise.

I connect the Muse app to the headband via Bluetooth, and it prompts me to close my eyes and allow my thoughts to wander freely. This gives it a chance to calibrate the sensors and create a baseline for my brain activity. In addition to detecting brainwaves, the headband measures breath, heart rate, and body movement to paint a complete picture of my meditation session. Once all the sensors are active, it’s time to clear my head.

A Personalized Meditation Guide

The rhythmic sounds of the sea tumbling toward the shore and pulling away from it instantly put me at ease. I can picture the ebb and flow of the tide and align my breath with the image. I can smell the clean, salt air and let it to transport me away from the smoggy city street outside my window. For the first time all day, my mind is still.

This lasts for less than a minute. On cue, the unwanted thoughts creep back into frame, and soon enough, they’re dominating my head. Muse senses this before I do, and it gently lets me know by escalating the soothing whispers of the tide to the fuller sounds of crashing waves. A common meditation trick involves picturing your thoughts as a river and allowing them to flow by without resisting them or jumping into the water. As the ocean sounds change to reflect my brain activity, they fulfill the same purpose as that river: They represent my thoughts as something separate from me, which makes it easier to disengage with them.

The waves pull me back to mindfulness, and after a few seconds, a chirping bird breaks through the soundscape. This is Muse’s way of signaling that my brain activity has been calm for a sustained period of time. The chirps don’t last forever: This is my first time meditating in a while, and my out-of-practice brain spurs a diverse range of sounds over the next several minutes. But when I do find myself wading into the stream of my thoughts, it never takes me long to emerge.

A photo of a woman using the Muse S headband.
Muse

Muse saves a snapshot of each meditation session. After a week of using the technology for 10 minutes a day, I can see how I’ve progressed. It now takes me just a minute to relax my mind instead of three. My latest report also shows that I spend 58 percent of my time in a calm state—up from 46 percent when I started.

I feel a difference when I’m not wearing the headband as well. If unwanted thoughts appear, I notice them faster and have an easier time letting them go. Having greater control of my thoughts has reshaped other aspects of my life, boosting my focus, helping with my anxiety, and putting me in a generally calmer, happier place.

Mindfulness is a skill that requires regular practice, and Muse makes a great exercise coach. After toning that mental muscle, I hope to get to point where I can notice my wandering thoughts and recover from them without a brain-sensing device to help me. But even if I master the art of meditation, Muse still has plenty to offer. A new feature included in the Muse S is compatible with the app’s Go-to-Sleep Journeys. These combine voice narration with soundscapes to lull wearers to sleep rather than into a mindful state. Whether it’s quieting my thoughts in bed or focusing them at the start of the day, an overactive mind feels a lot more manageable with technology on my side.

The Muse S is now available for $350 at choosemuse.com and Amazon.

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Learn Travel Blogging, Novel Writing, Editing, and More With This $30 Creative Writing Course Bundle

Centre of Excellence
Centre of Excellence

It seems like everyone is a writer lately, from personal blog posts to lengthy Instagram captions. How can your unique ideas stand out from the clutter? These highly reviewed courses in writing for travel blogs, novel writing, and even self-publishing are currently discounted and will teach you just that. The Ultimate Creative Writing Course Bundle is offering 10 courses for $29.99, which are broken down into 422 bite-sized lessons to make learning manageable and enjoyable.

Access your inner poet or fiction writer and learn to create compelling works of literature from home. Turn that passion into a business through courses that teach the basics of setting up, hosting, and building a blog. Then, the social media, design, and SEO lessons will help distinguish your blog.

Once you perfect your writing, the next challenge is getting that writing seen. While the bundle includes lessons in social media and SEO, it also includes a self-publishing course to take things into your own hands to see your work in bookshops. You’ll learn to keep creative control and royalties with lessons on the basics of production, printing, proofreading, distribution, and marketing efforts. The course bundle also includes lessons in freelance writing that teach how to make a career working from home.

If you’re more of an artistic writer, the calligraphy course will perfect your classical calligraphy scripts to confidently shape the thick and thin strokes of each letter. While it can definitely be a therapeutic hobby, it’s also a great side-hustle. Create your own designs and make some extra cash selling them as wedding placards or wall art.

Take your time perfecting your craft with lifetime access to the 10 courses included in The Ultimate Creative Writing Course Bundle. At the discounted price of $29.99, you’ll have spent more money on the coffee you’re sipping while you write your next novel than the courses themselves.

 

The Ultimate Creative Writing Course Bundle - $29.99

See Deal

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Escape The Overlook Hotel in This New Board Game Based on The Shining

USAopoly
USAopoly

The Shining celebrated its 40th anniversary on May 23, 2020, which makes now the perfect time to revisit Stanley Kubrick's classic work of horror. And if you're looking for a new perspective on the story, this board game from USAopoly reimagines the Overlook Hotel as an escape room-style challenge.

In The Shining: Escape from the Overlook Hotel, players assume the roles of Wendy and Danny Torrance as they search for a way out of the hotel. To escape, though, players will have to contend with puzzles and obstacles along the way, including Jack Torrance, the ax-wielding antagonist immortalized by Jack Nicholson in the 1980 film. By using the psychic ability to "shine," players can unlock clues and solve puzzles that bring them closer to the exit.

The new game is part of the Coded Chronicles game line, and because the objective is to beat the game instead of each other, there's no limit on how many (or how few) people can play. A full game is estimated to take two hours or more to complete, and this version is recommended for players 17 and older.

You can buy The Shining: Escape from the Overlook Hotel for $30 from USAopoly. And if it's been a while since you've seen the movie it's based on, read this to know what to expect.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.