Does Biofeedback Help Improve Focus And Meditation?
cognition | mood & emotion
Agnieszka has meditated with the Muse meditation headband for almost two years. By doing this, she hopes to improve her focus and concentration ability during the meditation session and afterward. In this video, she discusses what she did and shares her data from her meditation apps and the Muse meditation headband. She also shares what she learned from her experiment.
…Strength, memory and focus, better immune system, less worry, stress, and depression. Better relationships, more compassion and love, higher creativity and productivity, even growth of grey matter in our brains. These are some of the proven benefits of scientific studies about the effects of regular meditation practices.
Today I would like to tell you something about my personal meditation story so far. It actually started around twenty years ago, then there were books about different meditation methods that’s now with apps and wearables.
So why I started to meditate. So first of all there was and still is an inner wish to self-improve, more concentration and persistence in study and later working and a stronger focus. I wanted to think faster and to be less distracted. I was striving from low in what I am doing. I wanted to establish regular meditation practices, and I was curious to discover something new. And of course there were idols to be blamed for this, what is creativity, what is productivity. The Beatles were one of the first celebrities to make meditation known or even popular in the western world.
Do you recognize this man? It’s not my ex-boyfriend. Of course it’s David Lynch. He started transcendental meditation is 1973 and has not missed a single meditation ever since. Twice a day every day.
Over 100 analyzed scientific studies show well marked benefits of meditation to the human brain, body well-being and relationships. For example, a super mind with improved information process, better cognitive skills and creative thinking. A healthier body which will reduce blood pressure, less inflammatory disorders, less premenstrual and menopausal syndrome, higher energy and even more longevity and even emotional well-being improves too.
You can expect enhanced self-esteem and self-acceptance it helps prevent emotional eating and smoking and it helps positive social connections. How many of you have already tried meditation somehow? And how many do this on a daily basis? That’s what I expected maybe, a recent study in Germany, revealed that 11% of people do this daily, so there are a bit more than here. Thirty percent do this one until sometimes per week, and 45% do it never.
So what did I do? Well first of all I read books and tried to evaluate the right method for me. After this I tried Zen meditation course and couldn’t feel my legs anymore after sitting two times 20 minutes with crossed legs.
Sometime later I discovered a Buddhist center just around the corner with free meditation classes in a big group, and I come back to this later on. Then I tried a sort of do it yourself TM. I didn’t have some time to get my mantra so I just experimented with Sanskrit words. It just sounded good for me, like “Soham” which means so I am.
Then there came the time of apps like Buddify, Insidetimer and so on. Some of them are focused on relaxation, some on calmness and better sleep and even some try to teach you the Buddhist way. And finally then I came across Muse.
Muse is a meditation headband. It works with seven EEG sensors, which detect and measure the activity of the brain. Muse gives you a real-time audio feedback on the activity, respectively relaxation is a state of the brain. This sounded great for me. It should help me to improve focus through the feedback so that I could just go back to the calm state when I notice a disturbance. All in all, it could help me to improve my mind-body connection.
How did I do it? First I connected the headband to the app then the headband calibrates itself. It tries to find out a reference state in terms of a normal activity of the brain. Then I sit and meditate. Depending on my thought and activity, the app gives me feedback in the form of wind and storm when I’m thinking intensive, and it gives me a quite background and even birds when I was a bit longer in a calm state. After the session I can see my results.
They are shown to me as a visualization of the calm, neutral, and active states of my brain. I can see how many birds I was able to elicit and which awards I earned in this session. But also I can look a bit deeper into the data. I can see when and how many so called recoveries I had, which means how often I realize that I’m distracted and try to come back to focus on my breath. Great fun all in all but there were some problems I was struggling with.
One of my bigger problems in the beginning was to trust the results. For example here, it shows that I’m supposed to have been 83% around ten minutes of the practicing time in the intended calm state. Wow!
But I don’t remember that I felt like that. My mind was pretty busy, so obviously the calibration process is critical and because it gives the reference for the classification of the measured brain activity.
Another problem, another example, here I was supposed to be only 21% of the meditation in the clam state, only 150 seconds of 12 minutes, the rest was shown as quite active. But, I managed to recover 51 times, that’s pretty good I think. It means I recognized my distracted state and was able to counteract, so I couldn’t figure out which result was practically good for me. Even so, my own data did not yield to establish my daily meditation practice, I gained some valuable insights.
It is impossible to quantify the growth of focus without any other measuring instruments or test exercises. However, my subjected hunch about the improved back to the task ability is distant which was my goal in this adventure. So experimenting and quantifying the results is very useful but one shall not forget to trust the own intuition and inner knowledge about oneself although the guided meditation just didn’t make any sense to me. And finally, compared to meditation within a group of people that is always very powerful and a physical experience for me, I was able to sit for 30 minutes or longer without any impatient or any disturbance.
As you might know, it’s a tradition in meditation books and apps to quote words of wisdom, so do I to wrap up this session. An ancient Asian philosopher once said, a man who chases two white rabbits catches neither. In my meditation practice I have been chasing too many rabbits at the same time. It’s time to stop and prioritize and stick with it for a longer time, in word word just focus.
Thank you very much.