I’ve always been interested in introducing meditation to my regular routine as a way to help increase my productivity and energy levels while decreasing unnecessary stress.
On the rare occasions I did try to meditate, however, my mind would wander off, thinking about everything except my breathing.
I even fell asleep once or twice.
Since I’ve never been able to figure out exactly how to meditate on my own, I enlisted the help of a new meditation device, Muse 2, to help me track my routines and get on track to find the best one for me.
After a week of trial and error and a week of my ideal meditating, this is what I learned.
How it works
When I first got my hands on this high-tech headband, I couldn’t wait to give it a try — I honestly felt like a kid on Christmas morning.
First, I synced my headset to the Muse app, which I downloaded to my phone. The app is where the different meditation categories and soundscapes are stored, and where all the information detected during each session is tracked and recorded.
After downloading the app and setting up a profile, it was time to put on the headband.
The device should sit along the front of your forehead, with the two big pads resting behind your ears. It should sit tight against your skull, with nothing blocking it — this includes hair and any makeup you might be wearing.
Before each session, the app will notify you whether the headband is resting on your head correctly and if it can read your brain activity.
Once it is all synced up, you’re ready to get started.
Through the app, you can choose four different areas to track. These include:
Another key decision to make is which soundscape you’ll choose. Options range from rainforest and beach to city park. The idea is that the sounds reflect the activity the headband is picking up during each session.
For instance, the beach soundscape produces the sound of a calm ocean when your brain is quiet and calm. If, however, your mind starts to race, the waves will start to crash louder onto the shore. These sound cues are meant to help redirect your focus, and quiet and calm your mind again.
Week 1: Trial and error
The first week, if I’m honest, was a little rough and consisted mostly of fine-tuning what worked best for me.
Like I mentioned before, I’ve practiced meditation in the past, though mostly at an actual studio with an instructor.
I decided to sign up for a 45-minute “mind” session using a rainforest soundscape.
This, however, was a huge mistake.
It’s one thing to sit in a beautiful studio with an instructor for three-quarters of an hour. It’s another thing entirely to sit quietly in your bedroom for the same amount of time.
My mind was jumping all over the place. I kept opening my eyes, checking the time, and shifting to get more comfortable.
So, over the first week, I gradually committed to less and less time. Forty-five minutes turned into 30 minutes, which turned into 15.
Eventually, I found my sweet spot: 5 minutes.
I also needed to figure out which time of the day was best. While I initially thought a morning session would be a good way to get my day started, I actually found it impossible to focus. My mind would turn to everything from the emails I had to send to the edits I needed to finish.
To counteract this, I aimed to do my meditation sessions right before bed. This worked, except for the nights where I pick up evening shifts at a bar. During these days I did a quick five-minute practice before heading off for work.
The last thing I altered to create my ideal session was the soundscape. At first, I used the automatic option, which was set to rainforest. While this initially worked fine, once I gave the beach option a try, I realized it was the obvious choice for me as I’ve always found the sounds of waves to be naturally peaceful.
Week 2: Working with what I learned
After refining my sessions to find what worked best for me, meditating became something I actually looked forward to.
Over the next seven nights, my perception of calm went from 56 percent to over 70 percent. I felt relaxed but in control. I learned how to pull my mind back to focus and I found that pre-session instructions are key for me.
While my sessions were improving, I’m not sure there was a huge difference when it came to changes in my day-to-day life. Some days I had more energy than others, but that likely also had to do with which shifts I took at work. My sleep was exactly the same as it’s always been, as was my focus on work. All in all, I didn’t feel able to focus any better or worse than I always have.
Will I continue to meditate?
Even though I didn’t notice a huge difference in my mental state — and I’m not sure I’ll continue using this device — I did enjoy improving my practice and tracking my progress. Moreover, working on focusing my mind is an ability that I think can be incredibly beneficial for my writing habits.
It’s important to remember that mediation doesn’t work for everyone. Some have found that meditating can have negative effects, such as anxiety, insomnia, or trauma flashbacks. So, while meditating may seem like a harmless, mindful activity that everyone’s doing these days, it may not be something that resonates with you.
Finding out if meditation is for you
As you ease into the new year, keep in mind that setting goals is about more than achieving them. It’s about trying new things, and finding out what works best for you and what doesn’t. And if your goals are to help focus your mind, body, heart, and breath a bit more throughout the day, tracking your meditation with Muse 2 might be something you’ll want to try.
Emily Rekstis is a New York City–based beauty and lifestyle writer who writes for many publications, including Greatist, Racked, and Self. If she’s not writing at her computer, you can probably find her watching a mob movie, eating a burger, or reading an NYC history book. See more of her work on her website, or follow her on Twitter.