Introduction: Why Athletes are Using Brainwave Training & What are the Main Advantages?

Athletes use training equipment to improve their physical performance including free weights, treadmills, plyo boxes, medicine balls, kettlebells, and more. But what kind of performance advantages could athletes achieve if they focused their training on their brain?

 

Brainwave training is a practice that athletes use to increase their readiness for competition and recovery during and after a competition. There are two goals when utilizing brainwave training: One is to raise the athlete’s level of arousal, which can be beneficial in certain situations such as reaction times during high stress. The second is to train the athlete to stay calm during high stress situations and allow the athlete to access their flow state much easier so they can perform at their best. 

 

In this article, we will explore the benefits of brainwave training for athletes and what it entails.

 

Brainwave training is a very powerful tool that has been used by athletes since the 1980s. Athletes have used brainwave training (also known as neurofeedback) to increase their focus and reduce performance anxiety before competing or to improve their recovery times after competing.

 

How Does the Technology Work?

Neurofeedback training is designed to provide information about mental states based on brainwave patterns. It can be used to give the user insight into how their thoughts impact their performance, control emotional responses, and regulate behavior. By wearing a consumer-grade EEG headband during neurofeedback training, an athlete can see their brainwave data and gain insight into how they respond during stressful situations.

 

Healium’s technology works by displaying the brainwaves of the user in near real time while they are engaged in nature-based virtual or augmented reality content.

 

Then, the athlete must maintain their flow state above a baseline to increase their performance. The baseline can be adjusted higher and higher to increase the difficulty as the user advances. The algorithm then provides a feedback score to let the athlete know how well they are performing based on their brainwave activity. The scores are accessible in a personalized data dashboard so changes can be tracked over time.

 

What are the Main Benefits of Neurofeedback for an Athlete?

Neurofeedback training is used by professional, collegiate, and Olympic athletes to enhance performance and improve the athletes ability to control their own brainwaves. This can help reduce anxiety before a competition, improve concentration during a competition, and help with recovery after a strenuous workout. Neurofeedback is especially good for people who are prone to being distracted or have trouble with focus. It can also be helpful with certain types of cognitive problems like dyslexia or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

 

In order to reduce reaction times and increase the number of correct decision-making outcomes, an athlete needs to be performing at their absolute peak. Using neurofeedback can help an athlete increase their mind-body connection so it becomes second nature to shift into a focused-calm state of flow.

 

What is the Best Way to Train with Neurofeedback Technology?

There are two times during an athlete’s training that we recommend using neurofeedback. First, is for readiness. When the athlete utilizes one of our 10 experiences aimed at focus, they work on hand/eye coordination, dial in their visual attention and increase their focus. This is very engaging and activating for the frontal lobe and allows the athlete to be mentally prepared to perform their assignments at their physical peak. 

 

The second is for recovery. When the athlete engages in any one of our other experiences aimed at increasing feelings of positivity, calm or mindfulness the frontal lobe disengages and the athlete is able to reduce the activity of their Central Nervous System. This deregulation of the CNS allows the athlete to begin the recovery and repair process sometimes hours earlier than they normally would. It also allows them to develop stored memories that they can recall later during times of high stress to help them re-focus and access their flow state much easier. 

 

Conclusion – How to Get Started with Brainwave Training if You’re an Athlete

Focusing on brainwave training is essential for athletes who want innovative, results-driven and proven methods of performance enhancement. Incorporating it into your existing training is easy; Healium is a subscription-based service and can even be done at home. Ready to take your training to the next level with this cutting-edge technology? Let us know how we can help you or your athletes increase their performance and access their flow!

What is neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback works with your brain’s electricity by measuring brain waves in real time through EEG and providing a feedback signal, typically in a visual form. 

 

Neurofeedback has been used to self-manage anxiety, ADHD, improve focus, and more, essentially increasing mental wellness. Because these conditions can occur when one band of brainwaves are more active than another, neurofeedback training allows you to gain awareness of your brain’s electrical activity and learn what influences them to shift into a more focused flow state. For example, too many fast-moving waves can trigger anxious feelings. Learning more about your own unique brainwave patterns and what types of thoughts impact them can help you better manage those feeling states. Neurofeedback works with your biometric data.

 

What is biometric data?

Brainwave data is considered biometric data because it comes from your body. Other types of biometric data include heart rate, fingerprint scans, voice recognition, or facial scans. If you use a smartwatch to monitor your heart rate, you’re using tech with biometric data! 

 

How to do neurofeedback at home

First, you’ll need a wearable device to gather your brainwave data. Luckily, you won’t need a full EEG cap with wires and glue! A consumer-grade, dry sensor EEG headband can give you just the right amount of information you need without overwhelming yourself. We recommend the BrainLink Lite EEG headband. It’s  adjustable, lightweight, and rechargeable. 

 

Next, you’ll need software or an app that translates your brainwave data so you can understand the meaning. There are many neurofeedback training programs available, however, Healium is the only neurofeedback tool that allows you to see your brainwave data in near real time in virtual and augmented reality.  

 

 

You’ll see your brainwave states represented as a glowing firefly. The firefly moves higher or lower depending on your performance in the focused calm protocol. Additionally, you’re using your brainwaves to modify the content. In one experience, more butterflies hatch from the chrysalis when you’re successful in your training. 

 

Before you begin any training, Healium measures your baseline brainwaves. This baseline is unique to you. Think of it as your “before picture”. Your baseline is a snapshot of your brain’s electrical activity without trying to change it. You’ll always see it in every experience while using neurofeedback with Healium. The firefly flows along the baseline. If you want to challenge yourself and learn how to improve your feeling of focused calm, you’ll simply adjust your baseline higher and keep your firefly above the baseline. As you progress through the training, you’ll know you’re improving when you can maintain a high score even after you’ve moved your baseline higher. 

 

 

Healium helps you understand your brainwave data by providing a baseline, a glowing firefly of your real-time brainwaves, a score after each session, and even specific brainwave band measurements in your data dashboard. 

 

Benefits of neurofeedback

Just like any tool you invest in, you want to make sure it’s going to have desired outcomes. Healium strives to create a product that’s not only enjoyable, but backed by science. Users from our published studies in peer-reviewed journals reported the following improvements:

 

— increase in positive mood states

— high levels of engagement with the tools

— reduced subjective reports of anxiety

— increase in feelings of calm

— reduced tension and fatigue

— reduced confusion

 

More studies are underway so the research on our app doesn’t stop there. Additional benefits of neurofeedback also include:

 

— increased memory

— better sleep

— improved focus

— improved emotional self-regulation

 

How does virtual reality improve the effectiveness of neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback at home might sound like a complicated process but it’s made enjoyable by the engaging content in virtual reality. VR headsets are relatively affordable and accessible to anyone. Most headsets on the market are portable and standalone which means they don’t require powerful computers or cords to operate.

 

Virtual reality is a unique tool because it is immersive. According to this published study on VR impacting mood states in the Journal of Neuroregulation, “The apparent success of VR in reducing anxiety may be, in part, due to the strong feeling of “presence” achieved in these environments. “Presence,” is defined as the subjective feeling of being in another place. Rather than simply removing a potentially stressful environment, VR can replace these stressful cues with an environment designed to be soothing, comforting, and mood enhancing. VR research for pain management has shown that this strategy works quite well. For example, VR experiences designed to assist burn victims often utilize visual scenes that include cold weather and snow, taking advantage of the brain’s tendency to respond physiologically to environmental cues.”

 

Healium’s own virtual reality content is nature-based and most have guided meditations informed by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Jeff Tarrant and founder, Sarah Hill who also self-manages her anxiety with neurofeedback. 

 

You can do neurofeedback at home

If you can measure it, you can begin to influence it. Through neurofeedback, you can sense, interact with, and self-manage your mental states. With an EEG headband and a program to help you understand your brainwave data, you can make the changes you’d like to see in your life. 

 

While you have the option to select any neurofeedback training program that appeals to you, remember that virtual reality immerses your brain in the content–the brain believes what it sees which makes it a highly effective therapeutic tool. Our app is backed by four peer-reviewed studies published in scientific journals and continues to be researched for future use cases. See what kind of benefits you can discover from integrating neurofeedback training into your daily life.

 

Note: BrainLink and Healium are not diagnostic or treatment tools.  Think of the EEG feedback as self-awareness that displays a representation of your feeling state. It will not tell you if you have anxiety or depression. If you have questions about your mental health state, please consult a medical or neurofeedback professional who can give you a brain map with a full 19 sensor EEG cap.

 

What is mental health hygiene?

Mental health hygiene is the act of caring for your mental health by adopting safe, effective practices and ultimately building resilience. We take preventative measures to care for our physical bodies, yet we often don’t consider the importance of developing healthy mental health practices.

 

For example, being mindful of our media diet or incorporating a regular meditation schedule are great ways to start improving your mental health hygiene. With consistent training, we can create wellness within our body and mind. Students can certainly benefit from learning healthy mental health habits from an early age.

 

 

How schools can help with mental health 

Since youth spend a significant amount of their time (30 hours a week) in school, teachers and staff have the power to help them develop healthy coping mechanisms that will serve them far beyond academic hours. Providing mental health hygiene skills for students enables perseverance, self control, and tools to self-manage emotions. With the help of Healium, schools can teach students how to manage stress, better navigate conflict, and calm their anxiety.

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are in a mental health emergency. The suicidal, depression, and anxiety rate statistics have continued to increase over the last several years. The rate of suicide for those ages 10 to 24 increased nearly 60% from 2007 to 2018, making suicide the second leading cause for death among people ages 10-34. 

 

Alarming percentages show the mental health crisis taking place inside the school walls today. The CDC’s data and statistics on youth mental health show just the kind of emergency we face.

 

— 9.4% of kids ages 2-17 years have received an ADHD diagnosis (approx. 6.1 million).

— 7.4% of kids ages 3-17 years have been diagnosed with behavior problems (approx. 4.5 million) 

— 7.1% of kids ages 3-17 years have received an anxiety disorder diagnosis (4.4 million) 

— Research shows that children with anxiety disorders are at a higher risk to perform poorly in school, skip social gatherings, and partake in substance abuse. 

— 3.2% of kids ages 3-17 years have been diagnosed with depression (approx. 1.9 million) 

 

In addition, it’s very common for youth to be diagnosed with more than one condition, ie. depression and anxiety, ADHD and behavior problems. 

 

With this mental health emergency, students need a safe place to recharge, regain focus, and calm down when overstimulated. Currently, Healium is being used in educational environments  with teachers and counseling staff. It’s also being used by students before tests to self-manage performance anxiety and better focus. 

 

The virtual reality stories place you inside a peaceful, nature-based setting to relax your mind. The headset allows the user to see the settings all around them; above, below, and behind, which creates the powerful immersive feeling. The brain believes what it sees. Some experiences have a guided meditation which prompt the user to further relax and improve their mind-body connection and focus.

 

Healium’s benefits can be accessed and used in the classroom, the counselor’s office, or the principal’s office. A Healium kit can even be checked out for use at home. It’s a lightweight, portable kit that does not need to be connected to a computer, wifi, or power source to operate. Or, schools can create a “Healium station” where there’s always a clean VR headset ready to go inside a disinfection box. Students who don’t respond to interventions and continue in agitation can use Healium as a “break” to reduce stress after frustration or being overly aroused. 

 

Our Chief Scientist, Dr. Jeff Tarrant, describes Healium as a drugless, non-harmful tool that can be used both as a distraction to escape stress or as a training tool to learn and develop coping skills. The variety of uses with this product makes it a perfect fit for any educational environment.

 

Healium is a resource for teachers and staff as well. Educators are on the frontlines in this mental health emergency.  While a teacher’s struggles and needs will differ from a student’s, their mental health is just as important to manage on a regular basis. They need to take care of their own mental health first in order to be available for their students. Healium can be used by teachers and staff to manage compassion fatigue, improve focus, and reduce burnout. A recent study on frontline healthcare workers showed Healium quickly improved mood and focus in as little as 4 minutes. 

 

When teachers have access to Healium, it provides them a convenient escape to reset and recharge. Teachers notice improvement in classroom productivity, lasting motivation, and attention to students’ behavior, work, and needs. When teachers’ mental health is prioritized, these steps can translate into improvement in student performance and student/teacher relationships. 

 

 

Safety protocols for using shared VR headsets

It’s especially  important to consider the hygiene of shared equipment. While there are a couple options to ensure the health and safety of everyone using virtual reality headsets, the best option is a Cleanbox. Using a Cleanbox, a hospital grade sanitizing machine, is the most convenient and effective way to quickly sanitize the equipment without using wipes or spray.

 

Cleanbox is a premium, eco-friendly, hospital-grade, smart tech decontamination system specifically designed for electronic devices such as VR headsets, eyewear, and facemasks. Using consistent and targeted UVC wavelength light, it kills all bacteria, viruses, fungi, and COVID-19 in just one minute with 99.999% efficacy. 

 

Because UVC is an artificial wavelength of light, common dangerous bacteria and viruses have no immunity to it, therefore stopping their reproduction and killing them immediately. The UVC light does not cause any damage to devices or affect the lifetime of your product. Cleanbox’s light remains unharmful to you.

 

In an academic setting, a Cleanbox can be set up in the corner of the classroom or counselor’s office, holding the VR headset inside until it’s ready to be used. It functions as both the sanitizing and storage solution.  

 

If a Cleanbox is not an option, we recommend purchasing a wipeable face mask that can be wiped with disinfectant wipes. The liner is made of silicone and covers the foam part of the headset that touches the face. Alternatively, most Pico VR headsets come with a built-in silicone covering so they’re easy to wipe in between uses. Clean the headsets with a PDI sani-cloth wipe or Virex on every surface (except for the lenses) and allow them to dry for roughly 3 minutes.

 

If you don’t have a wipeable facemask, you can purchase single-use disposable liners that stick to the VR headset and can be thrown away after the user is finished with their Healium experience. 

 

Beginning to create daily habits to be mindful of our mental health is highly essential to our overall health. We can teach these habits to children so they develop healthy coping skills and positive outcomes. When we address their mental health alongside physical health, their quality of life increases. We must be committed to practice this daily to build emotional resilience for future generations. 

When using Healium with a BrainLink Lite EEG headband, you’ll notice a thin, white line on the brain waves graph. This represents your baseline. The baseline information is collected for the first 20 seconds after pairing the BrainLink headband. Your baseline is unique to you and it’s a visual representation of your brain waves at a resting state. When using an Apple Watch with our augmented reality app, the baseline represents your resting heart rate. 

 

To increase your focused calm feeling, you’ll want your firefly (glowing dot) to be above your baseline. But what happens when your firefly dips below your baseline? You’ll see a red tint over the experience in virtual reality (you can change it to black in the settings), Or in augmented reality just on your mobile device, you’ll see the elements in the scene change. For example, in our AR app, the sun in the solar system will not keep its illumination and will turn black. 

 

 

The red or black tint in virtual reality is one of the visual feedback elements we’ve designed in our app to let you know you need to reset your focus or shift your mindset to a more focused-calm state. Sometimes, it’s as easy as taking a deep breath but when you change the app settings to medium or hard, it becomes even more challenging to keep your firefly above the baseline. Healium isn’t meant to be just relaxing or engaging, it was designed as a training tool to improve your mental fitness. 

 

The benefit of the tint is that you don’t need to be looking at your brain waves graph during the experience. As virtual reality is designed to be experienced at every angle–above, below, behind–we want you to feel free to visually explore your immersive surroundings, even while training. 

 

In future experiences, such as the Jaguar where you can control your “stress animal”, the visual feedback will be more interactive. Instead of a tint, the Jaguar’s fur will change to red and orange colors while he becomes more agitated (pacing, running, growling). Its fur will change to blue as the user’s brainwaves shift to a more focused-calm state. 

 

 

Your Healium score represents the percentage of time your firefly was above the baseline. The higher the score, the better your focused-calm. However, if you’re consistently scoring in the 80-90 range, it might be time to increase the difficulty by raising your baseline in the app settings. 

 

Using the BrainLink Lite EEG headband gives you insight into your brain wave data in a simplified way. While it’s not diagnostic and only meant for self-awareness, when combined with Healium’s app and access to your data dashboard, you’ll be able to see how your brain waves fit into the different brain wave bands.

 

People are using Healium to improve their human performance, increase mental resilience, and shift into a focused calm state. Our unique visual feedback helps you understand in real time how your brain and heart are reacting to your thoughts to allow you to better reach your desired states of focused-calm. 

 

Your biometric data protection and privacy are one of our highest priorities. Read why we care so much about your privacy and review more about what we do and don’t collect in our privacy policy. A Healium pro subscription also gives you access to a data dashboard that allows you to track your progress over time. By comparing your Healium scores, you can even invite a friend to a mental fitness challenge.

 

What is NeuroMeditation? 

NeuroMeditation is the process of changing the brain through meditation for improved mental health and well-being. NeuroMeditation provides individuals the means and understanding of who they are, who they have the potential of becoming, and how to reach that ideal person they wish to be. Our co-founder, Dr. Jeff Tarrant, explains it best, “NeuroMeditation is the application of brain-based principles to meditation practices.”

 

Many don’t realize meditation’s wide scope. There are hundreds of meditation styles that use different methods and specific purposes. Therefore, it can easily become overwhelming for someone new to meditation to know where to begin. To simplify the hundreds of meditation styles available, NeuroMeditation is broken down into four categories that are categorized by the way in which attention is directed, what the intention is, and the way in which the practice directly impacts the brain. These four meditation categories include Focus, Mindfulness, Quiet Mind, and Open Heart – which we will further detail below. 

 

How can a meditation style help me improve human performance? 

Regular meditation can drastically improve your mental and physical health. Some of these improvements might include increased memory and self-esteem, reduction of symptoms attached to anxiety and depression, and improvement in concentration and working memory. Choosing the right meditation style for you has proven to decrease stress and lower blood pressure. While there are many different types of meditation, they all prove to provide a similar set of mental and physical health benefits. 

 

Better focus and concentration

Improved self-esteem and self-awareness

Reduce stress

Self-manage anxiety or depression

Fight addictions

Control pain

Enhance love and peace

 

The value in choosing a style that’s right for you is finding one that resonates with your current struggles and aspirations. You’re more likely to stay engaged in the practice if you are finding the results are working for you.  

 

When meditation is combined with brainwave neurofeedback, you quickly learn how to shift into the desired meditative state. You can practice the Healium meditations while wearing a BrainLink Lite EEG headband. This allows you to see your brain working in real-time, giving you immediate feedback, and allowing you to adjust your training level as your meditation skills get better.

 

 

The four types of meditation styles explained: 

Focus

Focus meditation practices concentration on a single thing like breathing, sounds, or a visual. It trains your brain to catch when it begins to wander and shift it back to the object of focus.  This practice helps you learn to live in the present moment and slow your inner dialogue. 

 

Focus meditation might be best for you if you struggle with concentration and focus, ADHD, and an aging mind. This style will aid in the improvement of focus, memory, and decrease in mind wandering. 

 

If you struggle with:

ADHD

Memory problems

Depression

 

What Focus meditations can help you self-manage: 

Concentration and focus

Mental stability

Memory

 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditations bring clear awareness to the present moment while taking notice of one’s own feelings, thoughts, and sensations without giving any emotional attachment. With this meditation practice, you shift into an observer role and learn to accept things as they are without attaching emotions, whether good or bad. The brain begins to learn to shift attention back to the present moment when wandering begins. This style of meditation calms the part of the brain involved in stress and begins to encourage it to let things go instead of fixating on them. 

 

If you struggle with anxiety, chronic stress, or depression, mindfulness meditation is a great fit for you. It will enhance your ability to let go, take control of your feelings, and focus more on the present. 

 

If you struggle with: 

Anxiety

Depression

Chronic stress

 

Mindfulness meditation will help you obtain: 

Letting go

Taking control of feelings

Focusing on the present

 

Quiet Mind

Quiet Mind meditation enhances one’s awareness of self. It allows the overly active mind to empty and rest in the most silent and peaceful state of pure consciousness. Quieting your mind is a great practice to alter the ways in which you negatively think of yourself. It allows room for the regeneration of thoughts towards yourself. Quiet your mind and still the constant chatter and worry with the help of this meditation practice.

 

Quiet Mind meditation is a good fit for you if you struggle with chronic pain, obsessive thoughts, addiction, or eating and body image disorders. This method will quiet obsessive thoughts, minimize internal self-talk, create alertness, and help gain an appreciation for life. 

 

If you struggle with: 

Chronic pain

Eating and Body image disorders

Obsessive thoughts

Continual internal chatter and worry

Addiction

 

Quiet Mind meditation will help you obtain: 

Minimization of internal self-talk

Finding rest

Self-management of anxiety

Appreciation for life

 

Open Heart

Open Heart meditation activates positive emotional states, leaving lasting peace and joy within the body that then overflows into others. This meditation method leaves a person with increased amounts of energy and urgency to show love, compassion, and joy to others in order to help them live to their full potential. You will begin to find yourself taking more opportunities to approach problems head-on instead of shying away.

 

If you lack empathy and generosity and struggle with depression, grief, or anger, Open Heart Meditation is an ideal fit for you. This style aids in the overflow of love and peace, the desire to stay mentally healthy, and the commitment to fight for good communication and empathy within the relationships in our lives.

 

If you struggle with:

A lack of empathy

Low generosity

Depression

Dealing with grief

Anger

 

Open Heart meditation will help you obtain: 

Love

Compassion

Peace

Joy

Empathy

Expansion of your mind

 

Understanding the four different styles of NeuroMeditation can drastically change the beginning of your mental health and well-being journey. Acknowledging where you struggle most and determining what you desire to improve makes the process less overwhelming and more motivating. Choosing the right meditation style for you will help you become the person you desire to be. To discover your meditation style, take our quiz

 

Our Take on Privacy

Healium’s mission is to reduce stress and help people learn to improve their mental fitness. The last thing that we want to create is stress for you in how we use your data. The entire design of our application is built around the security and privacy of your data. Your brain patterns and heart rate play an important role in your mental fitness and learning to self-regulate. Before Healium decided to start capturing biometric data, we spent years learning how to properly protect it. 

 

Our Commitment to Privacy

At Healium, data is handled with the highest level of sensitivity. We apply the same security standards for each piece of data in our care. We only use data we absolutely need in order to provide the user experience expected of us. We recognize the responsibilities associated with processing biometric data and the general public’s concerns around its use. Given our holistic approach to caring for all data we process with the highest standards of care, we align our data privacy and security actions to continually address any risks that arise. 

 

Personalized digital experiences require the processing of personal information. This means using data about you for your experience within our application. If you decide that you no longer want to have personal digital experiences, we provide our clients with the choice to delete all of their information from further processing.

 

 

FAQs on Data

Are you going to read my thoughts?

Plain and simple, no. Our apps are designed to analyze your brainwaves in order to give you a score to let you know how on target you are for the state of Focused Calm we’re guiding you to achieve. 

 

What happens to my data? Are you going to sell it?

Healium’s application captures, analyzes, and provides you with scores about your stress and relaxation levels. 

 

We do not sell your data. 

 

At any point, you may choose to opt out of the measurements or even delete all data sets. 

 

trend graph

Are you going to share my scores or brainwave data with my boss or therapist?

No, only you have access to your dashboard and scores.  

 

Where is the data being stored? 

Healium’s data is stored in a secure environment within the United States. 

 

Regulatory Portfolio

Healium incorporates the regulatory requirements and industry standards at each stage of its business model: development, testing, production, and facilitation.

 

> General Data Protection Regulation (European Union)

> California Consumer Privacy Act

> HIPAA, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (United States)

> NIST Cybersecurity Framework

> NIST Privacy Framework

> ISO 27001 Standard

> ISO 27701 Standard

 

Below are some examples of data that will be captured through a wearable device. Please note that this data will be used with the sole purpose of giving you insights and is not intended to be used as a diagnostic measurement tool.

 

> Electrocardiogram Data (ECG)

> Electroencephalogram Data (EEG)

> Heart Rate Data

 

Consent is required, the privacy notice is available and written in understandable language. Data is securely stored and the user is in control. Read our full Privacy Notice here.

 

We hope this information will make you confident in the security and privacy of your data. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact our Data Protection Officer at hello@tryhealium.com

Are you a believer in the science and benefits of meditation? Have you tried meditating, but you just can’t get the habit to stick?

 

I initially got into mediation because I thought it would help me perform better at work, in the gym, and improve my overall life. All the people I deemed incredibly “successful” were doing it and there’s tons of science about the benefits of meditating every day.

 

I also knew it would help me feel less stressed. I shared more in my previous post about the lessons I learned through my meditation journey, How a 365 Day Meditation Streak Saved My Life and Four Lessons I’ve Learned, When I started out, I would go through waves with my meditation practice. I would meditate for a few days or weeks, and then I would forget about it or even avoid it. It just wasn’t sticking with me, but eventually, things clicked for me (don’t worry—I’ll explain how below!) and I was able to achieve a 365-day meditation streak. I’m currently at a 500-day streak. 

 

Things didn’t click until I learned from BJ Fogg, author of the book Tiny Habits and Director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University, that not only can building any habit be challenging but building a daily meditation practice is one of the hardest habits to form. On the Professional AF podcast, Fogg explains why it’s so hard to form this habit which gave me greater compassion for why I had failed so many times:

 

Daily meditation is one of the hardest habits for people to form. When you are forming a new habit, if you feel successful as you do it, the habit will wire in. Most of the time when we are meditating, we’re not feeling successful. We are feeling like ‘I am just sitting here. I am just recognizing how busy my mind is. I am not feeling successful at all.’ So that combined with other factors in our life (how busy we are and is there even a quiet space) it really makes it a challenging habit.” 

 

He goes on to explain how to form this habit and the power of the “Tiny Habit.” This is where it all clicked for me and perhaps will click for you, too! 

 

Step 1 – Reflect on what you want

One of the first steps when starting a new habit is to ask yourself “what is the outcome I want from this habit or the aspiration? And what are the other habits I may be able to form that could give me the same result?” The point here is to find something that may be even more enjoyable for you right now. Come up with other behaviors that give you the same outcome and you may find something is easier for you to do or something you are more motivated to do. For instance, if you want to create a daily meditation practice, maybe being in nature, gardening, or playing an instrument will actually get you the same outcome you are seeking. If it’s meditation you still want, then go for it! 

 

Step 2 – Form a “Tiny Habit”

A “Tiny Habit” is a behavior you do at least once a day that takes you less than 30 seconds and requires little effort. Do something that’s so small that you’ll be able to do it all the time.

 

“Take the aspiration of meditating for 20 minutes or 30 minutes and make it really, really tiny. Make it so tiny that it’s just almost ridiculously easy. It might be that you take three calming breaths rather than spending 30 minutes meditating,” Fogg says. 

 

This is where the lightbulb went off for me. I was trying so hard to find 10, 20, or 30 minutes every day to meditate and if I didn’t, then it was upsetting. BJ Fogg advises you to do your tiny habit and chalk that up as a win! If you do more, great, but just doing the minimum is the goal. 

 

Step 3 – Fit the Tiny Habit into your existing routine

Once the habit is scaled back to be really tiny, look for where you can fit this naturally into your existing routine. Where can this habit fit in before or after an existing behavior? Could it be right when you wake up? Could it be right before you make breakfast? Could it be after you drop the kids off at school?

 

It can be hard to find where it fits because every day is different. Test it out and see if it works. Once you find where it fits best, then you’ll have what Fogg calls a tiny habit recipe. 

 

The recipe is to go to the same place at the same time every day and complete your tiny habit. For instance, if you want to meditate every day, start by sitting in the same chair at the same time every day. From there, start building. Sit in the chair daily and take a few breaths. If you have the time to do more, great! By all means, carry on. If you don’t, that’s okay too. You made it to the chair, did your tiny habit and that’s a win!

 

This is exactly how I built my meditation habit. Some mornings I would get out of bed, go sit in the same spot on my couch, and take three deep mindful breaths. If I had time for more, I would sit for longer. If not, then those three breaths were my meditation practice for the day.

 

Step 4 – Create a streak and celebrate

BJ Fogg doesn’t recommend this part, but something that worked for me was to create a streak using the Streak app. It’s a simple way to track the completion of your habits. The days I only take three breaths or accomplish my other tiny habits (i.e. physical therapy, evening journaling), I count that as a win and mark it as completed to add to my streak. 

 

If the streaks app isn’t your thing, there’s always the Seinfeld Strategy. During an interview, Jerry Seinfeld said the best way to become a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. He created a simple system to hold himself accountable and motivated him to write daily. 

 

 

Here’s a little from the interview:

 

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

 

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.

 

“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.

 

If you apply the Seinfeld Strategy to a meditation practice, cross off each had that you successfully complete your tiny habit price. If you miss a day, count how many days in a row you had before you missed and make breathing this streak your new goal. 

 

Whether it’s the Streaks app or the Seinfeld Strategy, it’s all about tracking your progress in a simple and concrete way to build a lasting habit. 

 

I prefer the Streaks app because it will send you a push notification when you haven’t completed your task for the day which is a helpful reminder. There are times when I have missed my morning meditation and in that case, I find time later in the afternoon or at night just before bed. There’s a great tweet I discovered from reading The Almanack of Naval Ravikant – A guide to wealth and happiness written by Eric Jorgenson. I too have grown to love a meditation session before bed. 

 

 

Other Helpful Mindfulness or Meditation Tools

There are a plethora of meditation or mindfulness tools out there. There are different types of meditation (breathing, transcendental meditation, body scanning, mantra, etc.) to experiment with as well. Try out new tools and methodologies and see what works best for you. Here are some  tools that I have used or am currently using: 

 

Headspace – guided meditation app 

-This is where I started my meditation journey and a great place for anyone starting.

 

Brain.FM – functional music to improve your focus 

-I use this app to help me focus for work time and it’s also a great way to decompress.

 

Insight Timer – meditation app for sleep, stress, and anxiety 

-This is my favorite meditation app which I use almost daily. There’s a little bit of everything to choose from, whether it’s an unguided meditation timer, guided meditations, music, or courses.

 

Here are some of the courses I have completed:

Coming Home to Yourself – Sarah Blondin

-I come back to this one probably every quarter.

iRest Yoga Nidra: Resilience for Everyday Stress – Richard Miller

Shift From A Scarcity To An Abundance Mindset – Sah D’Simone

30-Day Challenge To Awaken Your Inner Fire – Wim Hof 

-This teacher is also known as the Iceman for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures. He set the Guinness World Records for swimming under ice and prolonged full-body contact with ice. He also previously held the record for running a half marathon barefoot on ice and snow. 

21 Days of Morning Gratitude – David Gandelman

Learn To Stop Caring What Others Think – Lou Redmond

Creating A Safe World From Within – Emily Toner

10 Strategies For Living In Flow – Cara Bradley

 

Waking up (Sam Harris) – a guide for understanding the mind through meditation for the purpose of living a more balanced and fulfilling life

-I have only used the free version and there were some educational resources here. 

 

Sensory Deprivation Tanks  isolation tank or flotation tank, is used for restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST)

-They have these in a lot of major cities and it’s a great way to spend an hour or more. 

 

Healium – virtual and augmented reality for human performance

-This is a completely new way to meditate for me and a great way to mix up my routine! There are so many incredible experiences to choose from that make my meditation practice so much more fun and engaging. There’s also a quiz you can take to find the kinds of meditations that may work well for you. 

 

Now that I know the basics, I like to try new techniques and explore different facilitators. 

 

At times, I like to gamify my meditation practice. Maybe that’s just the type A person in me. I like to see my streak because it keeps me going. I like to see how many hours I’ve meditated. On Insight Timer alone, I have meditated for 16,100 minutes. Who knows how many hours I have meditated with the other meditation apps or with even YouTube. I wish I could know how many hours total just for the fun of it even though none of that really matters. Healium gives me a score for each session and I can track it in my data dashboard to see how I’ve progressed over time.

 

I am at a point where not only do I like to try new things, but in the mornings I’ll ask myself “what do I need or want right now?” It’s like picking out what movie you want to watch on Netflix. We all pick what we want based on how we anticipate we’ll feel. I do that when I pick which meditation to listen to or which tool to use. There are some that really wake me up and get me mentally tuned in for the day. There are some that really clear my mind and there are some that put me right to sleep. It didn’t use to be like this for me. I used to wake up and think there was a right way to meditate or there was a specific tool I needed to continue using to really get the results I wanted.  

 

The truth is, there is no right or wrong way to meditate. There is no one perfect mindfulness app. There isn’t a type of meditation that is best. All the tools and types of meditation serve a purpose and can positively impact you. Things shift when you focus on forming the habit rather than which tools and types are the best. As I shared in my previous blog post, forming this daily meditation habit has dramatically changed my life for the better.  The key is to start somewhere and be consistent, but don’t be afraid to explore. 

 

Jessie Jacob is a culture consultant and innovation coach. She helps uncover blind spots and opportunities for companies to improve their product or service through interviewing their prospects, customers, and employees. She also helps founders and executives to be proactive rather than reactive with their teams and workplace cultures so they can effectively scale. Her work has touched early-stage startups with an innovative idea to established, Fortune 500 companies

The US Air Force recently announced it awarded Healium an SBIR Phase I contract to explore deploying Healium’s mental fitness products to service members at home and in the field.  

 

The number of deaths by suicide among military service members increased in the fourth quarter of 2020 according to the Defense Department’s latest quarterly report. According to the VA, about 20 Veterans, active duty, guardsmen, and reservists die by suicide each day. 

 

Healium is a technology and a product that produces a “digital drug” that allows the user to learn to self-regulate their focus and calm by giving them the ability to see their EEG brain patterns in near-real-time. It’s a portable solution that uses virtual and augmented reality to immerse the user into beautiful, nature-based escapes.

 

In four peer-reviewed journals, Healium has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety and improve mood in as little as four minutes. 

 

“This is the stress Olympics and not everyone has trained for it,” said Sarah Hill, Healium’s CEO who developed the product to ease her own anxiety as a former TV news reporter. “How are you supposed to learn to control your focus and calm if you can’t SEE them? These experiences are designed to interrupt the stress response and allow the user to learn to self-regulate.”

 

In addition to being under contract with the Department of Defense, Healium announced a continuing partnership with The Outpost, a Virginia advisory and technology accelerator firm helping advance next-generation technology companies within both the commercial and national security verticals.

 

“From pre-deployment to post-deployment, airmen and soldiers are being asked to manage so many difficult and stressful tasks these days,“ said Dave Harden, The Outpost’s CEO.  With this comes anxiety, loneliness, depression, and, in the worse situations, suicide. Healium brings a world-class tool and experience that can help to not only teach ourselves to self-regulate ACTUAL brain waves but start to make the synaptic growth required to combat stress and human performance–all with a spa-like virtual experience.”

 

In addition to military and Veterans groups, Healium is used worldwide by frontline workers, athletes, and schools to reduce stress and improve human performance. You can get Healium on Oculus, Pico, iOS, or Android by searching for “Healium” in the app stores. You can sample our experiences here: https://www.tryhealium.com/stories/

Alright, so I don’t mean meditation saved my life in a scary way, but what I do mean is that it has saved me from a shitty life.

 

I was first exposed to meditation when I was a pre-teen. I had an opportunity to visit a Buddhist temple and I just kept going. We’d meditate, but really I’d just sit on a meditation pillow and fall asleep. It wasn’t until years later that I really started to get into it.

 

I initially thought it could help me with performance. In my early twenties right out of college, I was working two jobs and trying extra hard to prove myself to the world. I thought meditation could help me to rest, recover and focus. I thought I could continue burning the candle at both ends and running a million miles per hour. Except I didn’t view my life as burning the candle at both ends though. I was just a victim of “hustle culture” and trying to do what I thought other successful people were doing. 

 

I got into meditation because a lot of people that I deemed incredibly “successful” were doing it. Not to mention there’s tons of science to back up the benefits of meditation. My practice came in waves for some time. I would meditate for a few days or weeks then I would forget about it or even avoid it. It wasn’t sticking with me.

 

Eventually, my exhausting work/life schedule caught up with me and I started to experience levels of stress like never before. It sucked. I didn’t know how to relieve this, but what I did know is that I wanted those icky feelings of anxiousness to just go away. I tried really hard not to think about those feelings and we all know how well that goes. It’s the classic pink elephant example. Try not to think about a pink elephant. Well, guess what? You likely just imagined a pink elephant. Repressing thoughts just doesn’t work. 

 

The relationship I have with my thoughts, feelings, and ultimately myself has changed quite a bit since starting out and I am incredibly thankful for where I am today. Through implementing a consistent meditation practice, my life has improved dramatically!

 

I’ve learned a number of lessons from meditating every day for over a year and here are the four major lessons. 

 

Lesson #1 – Stillness and internal peace are possible

I tried being incredibly diligent and meditated every single day. I didn’t see the effects meditation was having on my life initially, but I kept going because I just wanted those icky feelings to go away. Eventually, things clicked. You do find a state of peace and relief that is always within you even if it’s just for a very brief moment. The effects linger on throughout your day and you realize you can access that space of peace at any time. 

 

“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there.” – Deepak Chopra 

 

Those brief moments of peace eventually turn into even longer moments. For me, this occurred when I tried a sensory deprivation tank. This is where I hit the jackpot! This sensory tank business is not for everyone, but my first experience was magical. There was so much stillness and space between my thoughts. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. As a side note, I got out of the tank to shower off all the salt and just started bawling tears of relief thinking “that was one of the nicest things I have ever done for myself.” 

 

Through this experience, I understood what others were talking about when they said it can feel so good that you eventually want to just stay there for a while. It can feel like you are unplugging from the matrix and the stress of life, and you’re just watching things float by without getting attached. 

 

Lesson #2 – Accepting what is and letting go is key 

Eventually, that essence of peace stays with you when you aren’t in meditation. You have practiced a level of acceptance with your own mind that you just start to accept and be with whatever life circumstances are thrown at you. 

 

Imagine you’re playing Frogger. The cars passing by are thoughts, feelings, sensations, life drama, etc. Instead of getting caught up in the traffic and jumping in between cars, you’re just calmly sitting on the side of the road watching the cars move on by. That’s what “accepting what is” looks like in your mind. 

 

“Feelings are just visitors. Let them come and go.” – Mooji

 

Comedian Pete Holmes’s video, How to Suffer Like a Total Pro, has really served me. He talks about using the mantra of “yes, thank you” to accept what is. There’s a time and place to resist what is and make active changes, but there are also a lot of other times where we make ourselves miserable by not accepting the things we can’t change. For instance, you are stuck in traffic and you can’t do anything so you just repeat, “yes, thank you.” It’s a practice to relieve yourself of your suffering and be thankful for that present moment of peace. 

 

Lesson #3 – Stick with it and focus on the process, not the results. But processing will pay off 

Another lesson I’ve learned about meditation is giving yourself time to process. In the Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness, Naval describes how as we age and experience the world, we pick up unresolved pain, fear, and mistakes that build up and stick with us. He likes to think about it like your email inbox. Unresolved pain and fear build up like unanswered emails. How do you get your mental email inbox to zero? Meditation.

 

“What happens in meditation is you’re sitting there and not resisting your mind. These things will start bubbling up. It’s like a giant inbox of unanswered emails, going back to your childhood. They will come out one by one, and you will be forced to deal with them. You will be forced to resolve them. […]

 

Over time, you will resolve a lot of these deep-seated unresolved things you have in your mind. Once they’re resolved, there will come a day when you sit down to meditate, and you’ll hit a mental ‘inbox zero.’ When you open your mental ‘email’ and there are none, that is a pretty amazing feeling. It’s a state of joy and bliss and peace. Once you have it, you don’t want to give it up.” – Naval Ravikant

 

Lesson #4 – The rewards will surprise you

When you reach mental inbox zero, you start to pay attention to things you’ve never even thought about before—which comes as a total surprise. I like to think about it like the surprise inside a Cracker Jack box. 

 

The first surprise is you connect with your true self. Remember that Frogger analogy? Well, you’re frogger sitting on the side of the road. You learn you aren’t your mind, your body, or your emotions. You are the observer, or what some like to call the witness or awareness. You aren’t doing—you are being

 

When you access this space of “what is,” you start to then have a deeper connection with yourself and the world around you. This is the second surprise. 

 

Your inner voice becomes a lot clearer and other sounds around you start to stand out. 

 

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” – Baba Ram Dass 

 

I know I am in a calm and present headspace of being rather than doing when I can hear the birds chirping outside or notice how beautiful a tree is. It’s a pretty remarkable experience that I now appreciate. 

 

This is what I mean by meditation has saved my life. My life and perspective on life are so much deeper and richer than it was before I started meditating. My meditation practice has done wonders for me and I hope others can experience these lessons like I have to improve the quality of their lives. 

 

To sum it all up, I think the deep spiritual teacher Ferris Bueller said it best: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”

Next, in this blog series, we’ll learn about the tools Jessie used to build her daily practice.

 

Jessie Jacob is a culture consultant and innovation coach. She helps uncover blind spots and opportunities for companies to improve their product or service through interviewing their prospects, customers, and employees. She also helps founders and executives to be proactive rather than reactive with their teams and workplace cultures so they can effectively scale. Her work has touched early-stage startups with an innovative idea to established, Fortune 500 companies

We live in a society of constant hustle. We’ve created this idea that anything less than busyness is laziness. However, it’s important to know: this isn’t realistic. We have to set boundaries for ourselves in order to rest and recharge. 

 

For the majority of us, work and home are two separate places for a reason. Both require our attention and effort but in different ways. When working from home, two worlds collide and it’s difficult for them to be separate. Here are a few ways to ensure time away from work while working from home. 

 

Take an actual lunch break away from notifications and your computer

Work breaks should always be a part of our schedule, whether at work or at home. It’s easy to skip breaks while working at home and continue past designated hours. To make sure this doesn’t happen, we need to create a plan to set ourselves up for success every day.

 

To set yourself up for success, make a habit of ensuring you have an actual lunch break away from work. Close the laptop, silence the notifications, and remind yourself to remove your mind from work for a bit. Breaks refresh us mentally and physically keeping us alert and away from potential burnout. 

 

Use your vacation time

Even with travel restrictions, it’s important to take time away from work. Get your staycation on or plan a personal retreat day. Healium offers great virtual vacation options. Escape to the beach, a meadow, watch the seasons change, or float into the Nebula. Through immersion, Healium allows you to rest mentally and physically.

 

Taking your vacation time can bring a lot of health benefits, productivity, and success in your work. You will be relaxed, satisfied, and productive if you take time away from work. Whether a destination vacation or staycation, it’s important to take time to recharge and remind yourself life is not just about work. 

 

Have a hard stop to your workday

It’s easy to keep working for just another 15 or 30 minutes, but setting boundaries is crucial for you to feel less stressed and ensure all your time and effort isn’t going to one place. Setting boundaries is also important for others, as they know when they can expect to reach you. 

 

Studies show that remote workers work 1.4 more days per month than when in the office. This adds up to more than three additional weeks of work per year. To eliminate the possibility of additional work, establish a hard stop time to your daily work schedule. Don’t check your email before or after the established workday begins and ends. When a specific time is sketched out in your day exclusively for work, you feel much more productive and less overwhelmed. 

 

Schedule time with yourself

If you don’t schedule time with yourself, others will do it for you. How many times do you let people put a date on your calendar? How often do you block out time for yourself? It’s healthy to take a night to yourself instead of doing additional work or going out with friends. 

 

Start making yourself a priority. Scheduling in “me time” isn’t really time with yourself unless you enforce strict boundaries. Put down the electronics, turn off the tv, and focus on yourself.

family walking in the neighborhood

Create space to transition from work to home

Create a new morning or after work routine that helps you transition from home to work and vice versa. Having a transition from work life to home life prevents constant stress and lets your brain know that it’s time to stop thinking about work.

 

Perhaps the only “me time” you had was the daily commute to your workplace. Try replacing your commute with a walk around the neighborhood with your favorite podcast, take time to journal before bed, or find a new hobby that you can spend just 10 minutes doing before the workday starts. Working from home provides new ways to step away and find your space. Schedule something in your daily routine that signals when work is finished and life after work begins. 

 

It’s crucial to continue to find ways to unwind and create space for yourself while working from home. Work doesn’t have to collide with your home life. Make time to continue keeping them at a distance from each other and ensuring designated “me time” throughout the workweek.