A survey conducted by Bupa revealed that 44 percent of people in the United Kingdom suffer from high levels of stress. Long-term stress can build up, paving the way to depression and chronic anxiety. To alleviate this kind of stress, some people turn to meditation as a way to relax, calm their nerves, and bring peace to their lives. Recently, developers in the wearables space have begun to tap into this market, creating products that enhance the meditation experience. How do these innovations work? What kind of meditation wearables could appear in the future?
Paced Breathing Meditation
One way to approach meditation technology is to begin with one of the most basic functions of the body— breathing. Most types of meditation involve a controlled or paced breathing style, and one of these meditation techniques is called “resonance.” Created to work with the natural breathing reflex, resonance meditation trains the mind and body to become more resilient and resistant to stress. According to some studies, resonance can calm anxiety, enhance a person’s focus, and help individuals prepare mentally for challenging situations.
Resonance meditation is a key component of the Sona bracelet. Like other fitness bracelets, it tracks heart rate, distance traversed, steps taken, and calories burned; but Sona also works with the maker’s Caeden app for iPhone to enable effective Resonance meditation sessions.
Stress Detection Through Heart-Rate and Breath Monitoring
You may have heard of the Bellabeat Leaf, a lovely piece of wearable jewellery that can be a brooch, bracelet, or necklace depending on the wearer’s preference. It’s a fitness tracker with an emphasis on women’s wellness, including monthly cycles. A new model, the Bellabeat Leaf Urban, implemented an extra feature that gauges “stress sensitivity.” The cutting-edge sensor within the Leaf Urban may be able to tell when breathing and heart rate are high, but whether or not it can truly distinguish stress from excitement or exercise is unclear.
EEG Feedback for Meditation
Some experts believe that people who meditate can permanently alter the way their brain processes stress and other stimuli. People who are interested in meditation enjoy being able to see the results of their efforts, tangibly represented on a computer screen. With a wearable electroencephalogram (EEG), users can view their brainwave patterns and note the way those patterns change with effective meditation.
An electroencephalogram measures the electrical activity with the brain. Typically, an EEG device includes a framework of several wires, ending in tiny metal discs with electrodes that are placed directly on the scalp. Those electrodes send back brainwave data to a computer or other electronic device.
Several companies have produced wearable EEG devices that measure brain waves. NeuroSky claims to be able to detect faint brainwaves with its MindWave Mobile device. The device connects to the NeuroSky app, which interprets and reveals the brain signals to the user. With the headset, ear-clip, and sensor arm, the device measures eye blinks, alpha waves, and beta waves. According to reviewers from Neurogadget.net, the MindWave is fairly responsive, picking up on various emotional states and revealing them through the Brainwave Visualizer app. The headset even notices whenever the wearer becomes distracted. For people who meditate, this kind of quick, responsive technology could help improve the effectiveness of their techniques.
The Effect of Sound on Meditation
Some wearable tech developers have focused on the unique impact that music and sound have on the brain. Thanks to decades of scientific and medical studies about the effects of certain sounds, we know that the sound of water is one of the most relaxing forms of audio, whether it comes as falling rain, a surging sea, a gurgling stream, or a rushing river. Wind, rustling leaves, and other soundscapes can help to regulate a person’s breathing and brain waves.
One developer unveiled Muse, a headband that identifies brainwave patterns during meditation. The band includes headphones that play specific sounds to help the wearer move into an even deeper state of meditation. The maker of Muse promises immediate improvement in meditation practice for users. According to a reviewer from Psyberguide.org, the product is simple, appealing, and offers clear EEG readings, showing a calmer, more meditative pattern as the soundscape changes. The stress control and mood assistance is helpful, especially to those struggling with stress and minor anxiety.
Meditation and Innovation for the Future
There are some significant advances already in the pipeline and this year at CES we witnessed the emergence of the green shoots of progress in the area of more innovative wellbeing technologies. After years of sports applications and activity tracking, it is clear that there is a huge market for wearables that give people back control of their wellness through quantifying physiological markers and providing actionable insights.
2017 is going to move us beyond step counting into a world of integrated wellness and seamless technology that informs rather than pesters us. NDP are extremely excited about being at the cutting edge of this revolution.