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Patrick Kennedy State of the Union on Mental Health

Patrick Kennedy, a former US senator, mental health advocate and author, along his wife Amy Kennedy, are both prominent figures on the Muse Advisory Board and in the forefront of mental health advocacy in America.

Patrick Kennedy sponsored and championed the Mental Health Parity Act, which indicates that mental health should be paid equally to physical health claims by insurers. As part of his advocacy, he has been bringing together working groups to tackle problems in mental health and deployment, which we have been honoured to be a part of.

The conference opened with an address from Amy Kennedy; a champion for the impact of mental health in schools.  She was followed by Dr David Satcher, the previous Surgeon General of the US. He recounted a story of being discriminated in his youth and targeted, alongside Dr Martin Luther King, and set free along side him.

He spoke of a new idea he has coined, Medical Civil Liberties, suggesting that all citizens have equal Medical Civil rights- rights to be recognised regardless of condition, and access to healthcare regardless of condition.

Here is Patrick in his opening address, talking about the stigma of mental health, and the need to break that discrimination:

The Kennedy Forum has created a simple video outlining the problem in mental health and what they feel is needed to close the gap. (Muse is honoured to be featured as one of the solutions suggested by this esteemed group).

Patrick’s vision is for mental health to be a social movement in America like physical health was in the 80s, raising awareness to give all of us the tools to live healthier lives, or like the environmental movement of the 90s, which brought awareness and solutions that make environmental consciousness a defacto part of our society.

Over 23 million Americans deal with substance abuse issues. 9.8 Million American adults suffer from mental illness. It is projected that by 2020 substance and mental health issues will surpass all other illnesses in terms of disability claims.

Simple recommendations today that can help improve both detection of and coping with mental health include solutions from doctors using mood questionnaires in checkups and schools implementing concussion tests. Schools, workplaces and more are beginning to roll out meditation classes to teach various methods of strengthening the brain. Tougher issues like managing mental health in correctional facilities will take longer to implement.

All are on the Kennedy agenda, and the several hundred policy leaders, heads of big insurers, Medicare/Medicaid, schools, Veterans Affairs, and more that were in the room, all agree that it’s time to break the stigma, and make mental health a natural part of total health.

The Muse Android Update Is Here

New features for Muse Android customers
Muse 2.5 for Android is here

It’s finally here… we are excited to announce a complete overhaul of the Muse app for Android.

We have lots of Android users here at Muse HQ, so we are celebrating with you! You can update the app on Google Play if your device didn’t do it automatically.

UPDATES INCLUDE

  1. A completely revamped look and feel
  2. Significant performance improvements, including a dramatically faster app startup
  3. Custom session lengths up to 60 minutes
  4. Challenges based on the latest research in brain health designed to motivate, inspire, and maximize benefits
  5. A new guided exercise: “Sensation of Breath”
  6. Improved tutorials to help users get going faster, more easily, and get the most out of Muse sessions
  7. Better account management and easier sign-in
  8. Improved awards for in-session accomplishments, and milestones to celebrate long-term achievements

Session Results
Richer data now with streak tracking

Immerse yourself in a lush rainforest

COMPATIBILITY

The updated app works best with high-end Android devices. See choosemuse.com/compatibility for our updated compatibility information.

Make sure to update as soon as possible, the old app will no longer be supported after May 2nd.

Denver Public Schools Incorporates Muse Into Curriculum

There are countless research studies that correlate meditation with positive impacts on health such as a study from the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital where they conclude that meditation can result in “cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day”. In another study, also from MGH, but this time from their Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders states that meditation alleviates “anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder”. Meditation has its broad spectrum of benefits within health and research but also can be applied in public, real world scenarios involving the education sector.  

One example is the use of Muse within the Denver Public School system.  Jackie Bott who is the Assistive Technology Coordinator for the school district is always looking for ways that technology can enable students with a wide variety of disabilities to succeed within the school curriculum.

Denver Public Schools, the largest school district within Colorado, with 210 schools catering to students from early childhood to transition years which include ages 18 to 21, received $1M in funding to support the purchase of assistive technologies within the classroom.  Student disabilities can range across a whole spectrum.  Some disabilities are emotional or behavioural and some can be physical to the point of being very severe.

Ms. Bott’s mission is to research and purchase technology that can assist all the various needs that a school may encounter.  She came across Muse while researching technology that may assist children with social / emotional disabilities including ADHD and mental health concerns within a mindfulness based learning curriculum; something that has been practiced at various schools across Denver but has not been formally adopted in terms of measurability and process.

“Severely emotionally challenged children typically don’t get much attention from technology so when I came across Muse this addressed a particular gap I was looking to fill,” says Ms. Bott, “We have been incorporating a mindfulness practice with certain students but there is no way for us to measure progress.  Muse fills this gap.”

Muse at Denver Public Schools District
Luke Chavez and Jackie Bott

Ms. Bott, in conjunction with staff from special education, has begun a pilot program that sees Muse being brought into numerous class environments in an initial sample of schools.  Part of this process includes a strict documentation process that identifies the Muse experience in detail so that Denver Schools is better equipped to explain the process to teachers, parents and children especially as it pertains to the capture and analysis of biofeedback and a student’s privacy.  Denver Schools is rigorous in its attempt to ensure that a student’s right to privacy is never violated.

The success of the pilot program will be evaluated by reviewing data provided by Muse, anecdotal feedback from students and teachers, as well as improvements in overall learning.  “From my own personal experience with Muse,” explains Ms Bott, “I can say that I really love it because I find it very motivating.  The gamification and the birds make me want to continuously improve and keep up my meditation practice.” She concludes by saying, “This is especially meaningful when I consider how fun and engaging this will be for our students.”

Pending the success of the initial program she will then plan for a roll out across the entire Denver School system.

Ms. Bott has a very exciting vision for the longer term future.  She plans to tap into the Muse platform through additional development. This would be to create thought controlled applications in a variety of everyday scenarios in the school environment that have yet to be addressed through technology.

Ms. Bott enthusiastically prophesied, “Think about children with severe physical disabilities being able to switch on a device by focusing their mind. This could empower students beyond what they always thought they were capable of!”

Personalizing your Muse Soundscape

With the introduction of our latest City Park soundscape we thought that the time is right to reflect on the various sound cues that emerge during a Muse experience. Muse’s soundscapes provide you with real-time audio feedback on the state of your brain to help guide your meditation practice. Our relationship to specific sounds can influence how we feel during a session. This is why Muse has different soundscapes for you to choose from. Try doing a few sessions in each soundscape to find one that works for you.

Beach, Rainforest, City Park, Ambient Music, Desert
Immerse yourself within various soundscapes

You can select from five unique soundscape experiences:  Beach, Rainforest, City Park, Ambient Music and Desert (Rainforest coming very soon to Android.  The rest to follow in later versions.)

Once you find your favourite soundscape, it can help a lot to put some effort into personalizing it. Tap the volume icon at the top-right of the screen during your sessions. Each soundscape is made up of three different types of sounds:

Weather feedback: changes in real-time based on the current state of your brain. You’ll want to find a soundscape and volume setting where this sound supports your practice by helping you notice when your mind has wandered without interrupting you when you’re focused. Note that the beach, rainforest, and desert stay true to the “weather” metaphor for the mind, but other soundscapes offer more abstract experiences.

Background: this is a static, continuous sound that plays throughout your session. It can be useful to mask background noise in your environment and help make the soundscape feel more uniform. Sometimes reaching a calm state leaves a noticeable silence in the audio feedback which serves as its own distraction. Turning up the background sounds can help mask this effect.

Birds: when you establish a deep, restful focus on your breath for an extended period of time, you’ll start to hear birds singing. At first, they might feel like a distraction.  Don’t worry, this is part of the process! Over time, you’ll learn to use the birds as a cue to settle even more deeply into focused attention.  If they’re too distracting, try turning their volume down a bit.

It can help to dedicate a session entirely to the task of tweaking your soundscape until you find your sweet spot. If the birds are too loud for you, try bringing their volume down a touch. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tweak the feedback volume and find your sweet spot.

Go ahead and try a new soundscape today and let us know what you think.

We are grateful for every single one of you.

Its our 10th day of ’10 Days of Holiday Gratitude’ today and we’d like to end our series by proclaiming that we are grateful for every person who has ever shown an interest in what we do. We strive, on a daily basis, to find ways of bringing mindfulness, meditation and a healthy mind to the forefront of people’s thoughts. As a token of our gratitude we’d like to offer everyone 10% off anything in our store starting from now through December 26.  Simply use the code ‘gratitude2016‘ during checkout and you’ll see the price adjust.  As we move into 2016 lets be more aware of all the wonderful things in our lives and celebrate them throughout the years to come.
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