“If you have unproductive worries,” says Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self.”
One of Dr. Hoge’s recent studies found that a mindfulness-based stress reduction program helped control anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder: a condition marked by excessive worrying, insomnia, and irritability.
Jessica, 31, a professional woman living in a North Carolina town influenced heavily by the local military base, was recommended Muse by her Psychiatrist, Thomas Mathew M.D., of the Trinity Wellness Center. Dr. Mathew takes an integrative approach to mental health and claims, “while I was intrigued by the idea that there were chemicals and electrical signals that formed the basis of our thoughts and feelings – I always felt that the change had to be more than just a prescription for a pill; it had to involve holistic and organic change in our thoughts and behaviors.”
Following a serious car accident years ago, symptoms of severe anxiety began to plague Jessica’s life. After 10 years of starting and stopping various prescription medications, Jessica took the advice of Dr. Mathew and began training her brain to have more positive thoughts. Jessica undertook 7 minutes of meditation per day for 101 consecutive days in order to help control her anxious thoughts.
Jessica committed to meditate daily at 8:05am. She started each day with a meditation at her desk before diving into work. Jessica described the first few days as a little awkward “because I was using technology to sense my brain and I, of course, never experienced that before!”.
“I’m now more aware of the words that want to come out of my mouth… I’m able to stop myself if it isnt going to be a good thought.”
When Jessica asked about any potential side effects. Dr. Mathew advised her that Muse would be, “as harmful as drinking water.”
After a few weeks of daily practice, Jessica shared, “I liked hitting the milestones. I like it because it’s like a game.” The milestones and challenges built into the Muse experience are designed to progress with you, at your own pace. Jessica knew that Muse was having a positive impact when she heard birds chirping in a simulated nature soundscape and felt like it was the result of a calm and focused moment. Birds chirping symbolize extended moments of calm during the Muse experience.
Jessica lives close to the ocean and finds the beach soundscape to provide more peaceful meditation experiences instead of the rainforest or city park options. Her best sessions occur while listening to headphones rather than speakers from her tablet or iPhone.
Jessica continues to practice with Muse daily, and has logged over 2,212 min and over 300 sessions to date. She describes the overall impact of Muse to her life now as, “there is a calmness, more times than not. It’s very calm. I’m now more aware of the words that want to come out of my mouth. I am able to stop myself sometimes if it isn’t going to be a good thought, or something worthwhile to say.”
Everyone experiences stress and some level of anxiety at some point in life. Dr. Hoge believes that mindfulness meditation makes perfect sense for treating anxiety. She explains, “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power. You can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently.”