What is Neurofeedback and Biofeedback?

Gaining insight into your own brain activity is possible through the process of neurofeedback. A report in Psychology Today considers it useful in self-implementing a desired change akin to a meditative state of mind. Meanwhile, the positive effects of meditation include decreased anxiety and improved mood.

Biofeedback and neurofeedback are related (albeit not identical) processes. Briefly, biofeedback can be compared to a file cabinet (encompassing a range of mind-body control techniques over various physiological processes, including pain sensation awareness). Neurofeedback is one file drawer, and focused specifically on brain wave activity. In turn, this makes neurofeedback important to biofeedback implementation.

People who engage in neurofeedback can respond to real-time EEG information about their brain wave activity in order to produce a desired brain wave shift. From improving mental health to controlling Parkinson’s disease symptoms, neurofeedback has gained increasing numbers of disciples among teaching hospital physicians since its inception around sixty years ago.

Brief History of Neurofeedback

 Beginning in the 1950s, medical researchers began to experiment with patient-controlled methods to decrease epileptic seizures. Decreased seizure activity was linked in numerous studies to calming brain wave activity through self-produced brain wave changes.

Neurofeedback—initially promoted as an aid for epileptic adults—became utilized in the conduction of research on meditation practitioners (in order to better understand the brain wave changes occurring during meditation sessions). The result was an increased understanding of the positive physiological effects of alpha brain waves, and the general health benefits of meditation.

Technological advances in EEG diagnostics has enabled neurofeedback to provide information valuable to enabling people suffering from a range of conditions to increase their alpha wave prevalence (and decrease the typical beta wave level that is characteristic of wakefulness). Consequently, the clinical management of such disparate disorders as childhood ADHD, sleep apnea, brain injuries, and PTSD may all incorporate teaching neurofeedback techniques to afflicted patients in tandem with (or instead of) medication treatments.

Positive Real-Life Impacts of Daily Neurofeedback

Described in an article in the Journal of Neurotherapy as physical therapy for the brain, a daily session of neurofeedback can produce positive brain wave changes that can improve mental and physical functioning. Both meditation and neurofeedback—through decreasing beta wave activity—increase cognitive functioning in areas such as concentration and problem-solving.

Muse: the brain sensing headband
Muse: the brain sensing headband

Research findings published in 2016 in Clinical Neurophysiology demonstrated this type of cognitive improvement even in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Who Can Benefit from Neurofeedback?

Healthy children and adults—as well as those with specific neurological disorders—can benefit from neurofeedback sessions. In particular, improvement has been shown in the following three brain-controlled areas in both healthy people and those with diagnosed neurological disorders:

  • Executive function (e.g., decision-making);
  • Mood;
  • Attention

There were 17,672 military personnel diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in 2016 alone, according to the US Defense Department’s Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Meanwhile, the website of the American Stroke Association states that around 795,000 people have a stroke every year.

Insomnia, anxiety, and depression are all common in TBI- and stroke-afflicted individuals, and the International Brain Injury Association, therefore, recommends utilizing neurofeedback in treating TBI patients.

How Neurofeedback from Muse Can Help

Meditating while wearing the Muse headband (connected to a free app on a mobile device) can enable a user to view their brain wave patterns after a session of focused attention meditation.

Data feedback provided by Muse after a session
Data feedback provided by Muse after a session

During their session, and by focusing on their breath, a fundamental aspect of focused attention meditation, they can listen to subtle guiding sound cues to reach the desired focused brainwave response. This helps strengthen the user’s ability to reach this state during everyday events and, in turn, deter mind wandering or negative thoughts as well as improve quality of life.

Muse detects a full range of brainwave activity. Brainwaves are typically broken up into five bands, which Muse is capable of detecting. Brainwave bands: Gamma: Hyper brain activity, great for learning Beta: Actively thinking or problem-solving Alpha: Relaxed and calm Theta: Sleep, deep relaxation, and visualization Delta: Deeply asleep/not dreaming. All of these bands are used in making the analysis that Muse provides at the end of every session.

> Want more information on what Muse can do for you? LEARN MORE 

> Are you a healthcare professional interested in learning how Muse can help your patients quickly and easily enjoy the benefits of meditation? Learn more HERE on our Muse Professional’s program. 

Common Meditation Myths and Misconceptions

If you believe that meditating requires prolonged sitting in a cross-legged position, you are not alone. This perception is held by most people in the US, and was revealed to be a barrier to commencing meditation in findings published in Nursing Research. In fact, only 8% of Americans engage in a meditation practice, per the National Institutes of Health. Meditation myths and misconceptions inhibit choosing to undertake a meditation (or mindfulness) practice. That’s truly sad. Some common meditation myths and misconceptions are described below.

Myth Number 1 – Meditation Requires Maintaining One Physical Position

Not only is it unnecessary to sit for an extended period in one position, walking or exercising while meditating is perfectly fine. The aim of meditation (and mindfulness) is to relax the mind and clear it of thoughts. Whether the meditating individual focuses attention on “Om” (a common mantra in Hindu-based meditation) or a specific visual point in the room, the normal pattern of thinking is changed during the meditation session.

Alpha brain waves are increased during meditation (as opposed to the beta waves that predominate during thinking), and an article in 2015 in Psychology Today described alpha waves as the ones most associated with increasing creativity. For people prone to leg or foot cramps when sitting still, meditating while walking or riding an exercise bicycle can be just as beneficial in producing increased alpha wave activity.

Myth Number 2 – Meditation Requires Periodic Retreat Attendance

There are numerous Zen meditation centers throughout the US, and a weekend retreat is often undertaken by its practitioners. However, this is not necessary—whether practicing Zen meditation or any other form.

yoga meditation
Photo by Kristopher Allison on Unsplash

Unless you are interested in becoming an instructor of a specific meditation practice, scheduling a daily time for meditation will reap health benefits, and attending a retreat is not needed to produce these benefits.

The workplace is well-recognized as a huge source of daily stress. According to The American Institute of Stress, 29% of all workers surveyed in the US responded that they felt “quite a bit or extremely stressed at work”. Meanwhile, mental stress has been well-linked to a negative overall health  impact (such as decreased immunity to infections). For this reason, incorporating a daily meditation practice into the work-a-day lifestyle is a great idea.

Myth Number 3 – Meditation is Religious

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is just one meditation form that is based in Hinduism, but many other forms are also rooted in the Hindu tradition. This is because early Hinduism embraced meditation as an aspect of religious practice.

monks meditation
Photo by Iván Tejero on Unsplash

However, meditation itself is not a religion. Instead, it is a way of calming the mind in tandem with assuming a physical position that fosters this calmness.

As discussed in Frontiers in Psychiatry, various scientists in the 1970s measured research subjects’ alpha wave production during a TM meditation session (versus during a normal brain state), and concluded that TM fostered increased alpha wave production.

How Meditation Can Improve Your Golf Game

Muse Meditation and Golf
Muse Meditation and Golf

For those of us that play golf we know that the sport requires a mental edge. This is why it was only natural that we take a closer look at how meditation can not only improve your performance on the green but also on a variety of other surfaces from the hard court, to ice rinks and grass fields. All the world’s greatest athletes practice some form of mental conditioning and its no surprise that meditation plays an important, if not the most important, role within an athlete’s training regimen.

As we began to research the impact of mental fitness within a number of sports golf really stood out from the rest. This led us to creating our first ever ebook geared towards the relationship between your golf game and your state of mind. Of course, we also looked at the role Muse: the brain sensing headband could play in achieving these goals. Muse is a device that teaches the fundamentals of focused attention meditation by providing neurofeedback in real-time while you meditate. Each meditation session is followed by valuable charts and data that lets you know if your ability to focus has improved.

The ebook Master Your Mental Game, available for free right now and packed with 40 pages of contributions by professional golfer Andrew Parr contains amazing pro golf tips and practical advice on how to use Muse mindfulness training to boost your game. This is a book that is great for anyone looking to train for performance with Muse as well as people looking to take their Muse experience to the next level.

Topics include: Maximize Performance, More Mental Control, Heightened Clarity

WHY GOLF?

Sure, we could have launched MUSE Chess to help develop the mentally superior strategist. But honestly, we think the prospect of improving the level of calm, concentration and enjoyment on the golf course could be the first step to world peace. Overstatement? Perhaps… but not by much.

Andrew Parr wearing Muse
Andrew Parr wearing Muse

Think about it: here’s a sport that’s enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Yet if you surveyed that demographic, most golfers would agree that golf is one of the most mentally taxing sports ever. High performance golf is especially contemplative. The perils of losing focus – if only for a moment – can spell the difference between triumph and heartbreak.

As fickle, frustrating and punishing as golf can be, we still hang onto the sensation of those perfectly hit shots. That’s what keeps us coming back for more, and that’s why Muse can help. Effective meditation with Muse helps maximize your performance on the golf course, grants you more focus and mental control, and heightens your clarity on the course.

Muse for Golf is a natural extension of our goal to help people calm their minds and focus on what’s important. We want people to get past the storms and waves on the surface of their minds to the deep calm beneath.We know the joys of this sport, we understand its enduring appeal, and we want to help you experience more mastery and confidence on the course. In other words, we want Muse to be your playing partner for a long time to come.


This was an excerpt from Master Your Mental Game which can be dowloaded for free from choosemuse.com/ebook

5 Ways Meditation Changes The Way You React to The World

With our jam-packed schedules and constant sense of urgency, it’s no wonder we are living in a world with road rage. Our lives have been reduced to reactive moments rather than moments that we mindfully participate in. Being an active participant in each moment is not easy but is made possible through meditation. With just a few minutes of meditation a day, you can fully change the way you react to the world.

Meditation Reduces Fight or Flight Response

A meditation practice can reduce primal response to fear and stress. Huh? You’ve probably heard of the fight-or-flight response, which accounts for a sudden surge of energy in the face of danger. This energy is crucial to surviving and has helped our species become the most dominant species on our planet.

The problem? Our brains have a hard time figuring out which problems are life-threatening and which are just annoying. Rush hour traffic looks a lot like a threatening tribe coming after your caveman family, according to the brain. So it pumps out hormones and adrenaline to combat the stressor. This can lead to illness and disease, which eventually break the body down.

Meditation reduces this automatic response so that your brain has an extra minute to assess the situation before responding. This means that you have less adrenaline and stress hormones coursing through your veins so that you feel a whole lot calmer most of the time.

Meditation Increases Executive Functioning

Executive functioning, which is responsible for making important decisions and having foresight, is significantly improved with meditation. It does this by building stronger connections to the area of the brain that focuses on a given task, especially the area associated with decision-making. By meditation, you are improving your ability to make better decisions.

Better decision making abilities means that you will be better equipped to handle the demands of daily living. By making better choices, daily, your entire view of the world will shift as your life gradually becomes easier.

Meditation Cuts Depression and Anxiety

Meditation has proven to be comparable to pharmaceutical drugs in reducing depression and anxiety.

Meditation can change the way you react to the world.
Meditation can change the way you react to the world.

This works by increasing the brain’s ability to focus and problem solve. Anxiety and depression are often made worse by a loop of unhealthy thoughts that interfere with everything else that you should be thinking about. With meditation, these thoughts don’t interfere as much and when they do the brain is able to problem-solve its way out of them.

As challenges arise throughout the day, you will find yourself noticing them with a different perspective. Rather than coming from a place of despair, you will approach your experiences from a place of contentment. This will probably be the single greatest factor in changing the way you react to the world.

Meditation Improves Concentration

Meditation is so helpful at improving concentration that it significantly improved GRE scores of participants. Meditation significantly reduces mind-wandering so that overall performance is improved (no matter the task). Mindfulness meditation also improves working memory so that you can think more efficiently.

Being able to concentrate and focus on the important details of any given situation will help you respond to each situation more appropriately.

Meditation Makes You Happier

Meditation increases happiness by increasing the area of the brain associated with happiness.

happiness
happiness

Not only that, but it decreases intruding thoughts which may get in the way of a happy moment. By being happier, in general, you will be able to react more kindly and happily to all the little things that pop up throughout the day.

Meditation completely rewires your brain in all the areas that matter. Rather than allowing your brain to jump to conclusions and enter into a fit of rage, you will be able to see things more clearly due to your improved neural connections and increased focus. It’s not magic; it’s science. Meditation completely changes the way that you react to the world.

What is Mindful Eating?

This summer many of us will be getting together with our friends and families and firing up the grill. Its easy, when you’re hungry or distracted, to gorge yourself on delicious food. However, did you know that actually taking the time to savour every morsel and enjoy all the wonderful textures and flavors, has an amazing effect on your mind and body like the ability, for example, to help you lose weight? In a world where food is named the enemy and eating is regarded as a sort of sin, there seems to be little hope in making the act of eating an enjoyable one anymore. A notification on our smartphones, an urgent email, or a clickbait news story make the very act of eating a distracted chore. We inhale treats that are deemed naughty without so much as a single groan of pleasure, bypassing all of our favorite parts of the treat. Naturally, many are searching for a way to reconnect with food in a way that is enjoyable and nutritious.

Enter: mindful eating.

MIndful Eating
Mindful Eating (image credit: DolcePlacard.com)

Mindful eating is an approach to food that combines the tenets of mindfulness with the very simple act of eating. By being mindful with each bite we are opening communication between our brains and our appetites. By doing this, we are able to be more aware of our bodies’ desires and needs, thus truly feeding it exactly what it wants.

The Mindfulness Approach

Mindfulness is simply the act of being more present in every moment. Though it’s not entirely possible to be deliberately present in each moment of the day, it is the ultimate goal. To begin with, many experts practice mindfulness in small doses, such as with eating.

Being mindful is a lot less tricky than it sounds. It is intentionally being aware of what is happening, both inside and out, in any particular moment. The focus turns to your sensations, your feelings, your emotional reactions, and even your thoughts. Rather than trying to control each of these, the goal is simply to be aware of them.

Awareness is key in mindfulness because it detaches itself from any judgments or guilt. Rather than beating yourself up over your thoughts or cravings or hurry, you are meant to be aware of these things. Being fully aware of your experience, all the good parts as well as the bad, helps you to actually experience the moment. This is the entire idea behind mindfulness.

Mindful Eating

As you might suspect, mindful eating is just practicing mindfulness while eating. With each bite, attention is paid to the colors, textures, smells, flavors, and even sounds of the food. We also focus our attention on our own experience as we take the bite. What do we feel in our hands, our mouths, our stomachs, even our hearts? What does hunger feel like and, alternatively, what does it feel like to be satisfied?

Summer Barbecue
Summer Barbecues (image credit: parentmap.com)

Mindful eating slows the process of eating down so that we are actually involved in it. It allows us to view food for exactly what it is–a nutritive substance–and enjoy the process in the meantime. It is the perfect antidote to mindless eating, which often contributes to a poor diet and an emotional rollercoaster regarding food.

With a continued practice of mindful eating, we are able to return to the sense of ease and enjoyment in eating we once had as children. It is also the same experience that our ancestors had, too, making it the most natural and healthy way to eat. Breaking old, rushed habits isn’t easy, though. It takes practice and dedication. And, of course, awareness. Start small, perhaps with your morning coffee, and expand from there. Eventually, you will be able to eat mindfully with each meal.