Meditation isn’t for you? Does it leave you bored and restless or you have problems focusing?
Meditation apps have flooded the market in recent years with the aim to help people relax or just remember to breathe. Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now, it may also protect your health in the long-term.
Essential reading: Stress busting wearables to help you chill
In addition to apps, there are also fitness trackers and smartwatches with functionality that helps you chill. Breathing exercises can be found, for example, on the Apple Watch, Fitbit and Garmin devices. It’s not just about counting steps and calories any more.
But there might be an even better way to train your mind. A growing number of wearables are being designed specifically with meditation in mind. These are called biofeedback headsets and typically use EEG to gauge your brainwaves.
EEG waveforms are generally classified according to their frequency, amplitude, shape, and sites on the scalp where they are recorded. You’ve got five of them: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta. Each has its own distinct purpose and function in life. For meditation, you want to aim to spend as much time as you can in theta wave state.
Read on for our selection of great mindfulness tech that’s currently on offer. Wearables that aim to hack your brainwaves!
Best meditation wearables
Perhaps the best known name on this list, Muse is a headset that gives users real-time feedback on what is happening inside their brain while they meditate. The first generation device detects changes by using seven EEG sensors along the scalp. Muse 2 goes further by slapping on a heart rate monitor, accelerometer for body movement and breath for even better tracking.
While you meditate, the headband measures whether your mind is calm or active, and translates that data into sound that you can hear. When you’re calm, you’ll hear the sound of peaceful weather. If Muse senses your mind wandering, you’ll hear the weather sounds get stronger, gently guiding you back to calm.
In our hands-on review earlier this year, we found Muse 2 is as good as it gets right now if you’re looking for a biofeedback meditation headset. It might not be for everyone, but if you have the budget and your aim is to meditate more and improve your focus, the device certainly can help.
At CES 2020, the Toronto wearable startup announced a new brain-sensing headband called Muse S. Unlike its predecessors, this one can also be worn when you go to bed thanks to its more versatile, softer form factor, breathable material and stretch fabric. The signal quality has also been improved and the band can be worn on a wider variety of head sizes.
Thync asserts that it has created the first technology that gives you the power to change the way you feel. The Star Trek-esque device, which looks similar to an an eye patch only for your forehead, connects up with an accompanying app that delivers waveforms to your brain.
Thync waveforms activate specific nerves on the head that signal the brain to shift to a state of calm or give you a boost of energy depending on which of the two you are after at any given moment. You do this by choosing a connecting strip based on whether you want to feel energised or calm.
The calm and energised modes work on two different parts of the nervous system – the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions that regulate the body for action or tranquility respectively. This essentially causes a feeling that can be equated to meditation or the invigoration of splashing cold water on your face – only more focused.
One of the most affordable options on this list, Mindwave allows you to see brainwave changes in real time. It monitors your levels of attention and relaxation, allowing you to learn how your brain responds to different stimuli.
The device consists of a headset, an ear-clip and a sensor arm. The headset’s reference and ground electrodes are on the ear clip and the EEG electrode is on the sensor arm, resting on the forehead above the eye. With this setup MindWave Mobile 2 measures and outputs brainwaves.
The headset can tap into more than 100 brain training games and educational apps available on the company’s app store. Some of these are focused on meditation and mood tracking. You can also write your own programs using the free Development Tools.
Rather than EEG, Unyte’s interactive meditation uses Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and galvanic skin response. The sensor connects to the body by an ear clip and transmits information to your phone, tablet or computer in real-time.
The accompanying software interprets the user’s state of stress or relaxation and connects them to a choice of over 50 immersive digital and virtual reality experiences. This includes guided meditations and mini-games which have the effect of teaching you how to meditate more effectively. If you happen to have a VR headset, you will have the benefit of being transported to a visually fully immersive world.
Unyte’s accompanying smartphone app shows your body’s responses, HRV and resonance score on-screen in an easy to read format. The game advances as your score improves – in a sense rewarding you as you go into a deep meditative state.
Another Kickstarter funded gadget, this headband is capable of tracking and visualizing brainwaves and heart rate and heart rate variability in real time while you are meditating. It does this via a two-channel EEG system and heart rate sensors. Simply place it on your head as you drift into your session.
All of this is visualized in the accompanying smartphone app giving you a holistic view of what is going on in your brain and body. This may especially be helpful to those who have trouble tuning out and overcoming mental roadblocks. To make the job even easier, the app has has guided and free meditation modes both for beginners and experienced users.
What we particularly like about this product is the simple way everything is presented in the app. You have access to a wealth of data, including the raw brainwave statistics.
Following various delays the product is now about to start shipping. Backers can expect to receive their Flowtime soon.
UrgoNight sits on top of your head to measure brain activity via EEG. The accompanying smartphone app interprets the signals to visualize brainwaves and creates custom training exercises. The goal of all of this is to help you sleep better.
Showcased at CES 2020, the therapy requires three 20-minute sessions per week. The company behind the product says users of the device fall asleep 40% faster and night-time awakenings are reduced by 53% with its solution. You do have to stick with it as sustainable results take around three months to achieve.
UrgoNight is still in development and should be available for purchase in the second quarter of this year. You can register on the URGONight website to be kept informed of progress.
This a clinical-grade headset you can use to exercise your brain. It was built to provide access to neurofeedback in a cost-effective way.
Mendi is slightly different from other devices in this list. The hardware is based on functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) technology rather than EEG. It works by emitting an infrared light which monitors activity in the front of your brain. The app provides exercises to train your brain, requiring focus and calm to control the game. This improves your mental fitness over time.
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