ExPostModern, Spotlight

Review: Does the Ananda “Brain Wave” App Really Work?

Ananada app by Manu Loigeret

Notice: This is not an affiliate review. I do not receive any pay or profit for sales of this app nor was I compensated for reviewing it. I was offered a free download of the app, but I paid for it anyway. 

You know when you’re hard at work at your breakfast table, but instead of doing paid client work you’re writing unpaid fiction, but you’re not making much progress at it because you keep pausing to refresh gaming forums?

Okay, maybe that’s not exactly like most peoples’ workdays. But I think most of us have times when we’re supposed to be focused and concentrating, and instead we’re scattered and unmotivated. That’s why I love Ananada.

Ananda is officially a “meditation app.” Designed by my friend Manu Loigeret, at a glance it looks like a relaxation noise machine: listen to some ambient sounds and get your bliss on. But it’s really much more than that. Hidden in Ananda’s peaceful broadcasts are binaural tones designed to alter your brain waves. These tones purport to help influence you toward concentration, relaxation, or other mood changes—take your pick.

Here’s how Ananda explains it:

“Binaural tones are produced by the frequency offset between two sounds, one aired in one ear, the other in the other ear.

“For example, if a 200Hz sine wave is produced in the left ear and a 210Hz sine wave is produced in the right ear, the resulting binaural tone is 10Hz… a 10Hz beat will induce 10Hz brainwaves.”

Those particular brainwaves are associated with mood elevation.

Does the app work? Well, I’m always a little hesitant with claims like these. I have no doubt that Manu paid good attention to the science behind it, but without testing I can’t say whether he successfully creates binaural tones that help induce specific brain activity. What I can report on is my own anecdotal experience, and it is positive.

I almost always listen to relaxing music while I work. In rare cases the right trip hop track will put me in a trance-like state of focus, even seemingly alter my mood, and then Pandora goes on to the next song and the spell is broken.

For me, Ananda produces that trance-like concentration with much greater reliability.

When you activate Ananda you have a simple menu that lets you choose what kind of brain waves you’re looking for (with options like deep meditationfocus & concentration, and restorative sleep). You can set how long the sounds will go for, and each setting has a recommended minimum (power nap is a lot shorter than restorative sleep).

Once you press play you hear an ever-changing soundscape of chanting, nature sounds, droning and even snippets of distant street life or electronic music. The result is a basic ambient track that would be pretty relaxing on its own, with or without the brain hacking. Every few minutes the sound elements change, and you can manually choose how often this happens if you want.

So how well does it work?

I’ve used the focus & concentration setting several times while working, and I plan to use it regularly from now on. I work better with Ananda. I get lost in the sound and my work and sometimes I get an actual chill down my back. It’s uncanny.

I’ve also tried the power nap mode. In my case, I’m not used to having sound while I sleep—even relaxing sound—so I had a hard time drifting off. I turned the volume way down (something the Ananda instructions says has no effect on the binaural tones) and ended up having a good, if brief, nap. I’d like to play with this more.

Positives:

Ananda stands out from most apps with its beautiful design and easy interface, but where it really shines is in the options. There’s a trend in apps to make all settings minimal, which basically caters to stupid people and/or insults the rest of us. Ananda rises above that. Instead of just “meditate—work—sleep” Ananda offers 14 different binaural settings, all of which have clear utility. There’s also a simple settings menu with fine-grain volume control and an elegant, helpful Information section.

Negatives:

It would be nice if there was an option to block/silence alerts and calls while Ananda is in play. (As it is, to prevent interruptions I have to either activate Airplane Mode (less than ideal) or manually turn off alerts.) I also think it would be nice if the different sounds would transition in and out more gradually—currently they create the effect of changing out tracks, which draws my attention to the sound instead of relaxing/working.

If nothing else, Ananda provides endless non-repeating ambience to help you with your work day, stress relief or getting to sleep (without commercials *cough Pandora cough* or DJ’s *hack cough Stillstream*). I can’t say whether it physically affects my brain waves, but I like the mental state it gives me.

You can purchase Ananda for $2.99. Check the App Store or get Ananda here.

 

Fellowship of the Wheel bicycle adventure

I’m launching a group bicycle ride across Mexico with some of the most fascinating adventurers in the world—including beginners and experts, 20 year olds and 60 year olds, women and men. You can help out & join us from home every step of the way: The Fellowship of the Wheel

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Social Skills

Why I Don’t Value My Privacy

It’s time for me to stand up and say my piece.

I don’t give a fuck about privacy.

I don’t mean your privacy. You won’t find me in a tree outside your window. I swear. Not that I haven’t tried.

No, I mean my privacy. I don’t care if my personal information is online. I’m pretty mystified by people who do.

A Few for the Vault

I want to make clear that I’m not telling you to give away sensitive financial information. I’d like to say, “use your common sense,” but that doesn’t work on this topic. A lot of people have no idea what information is already out there or what kinds of things thieves are after. Some people see hackers in every shadow. Maybe this is you, or someone you know. So let me clarify.

Here are the things you should not share online:

  • Your passwords
  • Credit card numbers
  • Account & routing numbers or other financial access info
  • Tax and income figures
  • Your social security number

Even these can be shared online if it makes sense. You can give your SSN to your credit union via their secure site, perhaps for an online loan application.

Your Information is Not Secret

Other than the above, pretty much everything about you is already available on the internet. This includes: your address, your phone number (even the unlisted cell), your birth certificate, your criminal record, the house you own and its estimated value, your maiden name, your spouse’s name, many of the charitable donations you’ve made (and the amount), and probably your email address.

I can get all of that stuff right now if I want.

There is nowhere you can go to remove that information from the web. There are places you can go who will say they’ll remove the info, but they are lying. They will, however, spam the email address you enter at their site.

Village Life in 20X6

The internet has irrevocably ended the age of privacy. But most people don’t realize that the age of privacy was a very short period.

Up until the early 20th century, “privacy” was unheard of. Sure, you might be able to wash in private, but personal information was completely public.

People lived in small houses with large extended families. Everyone in the community knew everyone else, including personal history. If you slept with someone, the whole village knew. If you made a fool of yourself? The village knew. Your occupation, approximate wealth, the location of your home, your accomplishments and your crimes were all pretty much public knowledge. Sure, they may never have heard of you 100 miles away but you weren’t going to travel that far anyway. To the people who mattered, keeping secrets was hard.

This changed in a few select countries in the mid-1900’s. In the U.S. it happened after World War II, when middle-class vets had enough money to begin moving into subdivisions of cookie-cutter houses. The economic boom, the widespread use of automobiles, and the availability of cheap-but-decent houses created the perfect conditions for something never before heard of.

The nuclear family was born.

Suddenly, houses had a small number of people in them—each with a private room. The houses were spaced farther out, and were often removed from civic centers.

People think of the 1950’s as a time when people were fake; they put on a front of American dream perfection, hiding their secret frustrations and struggles. We think of the 50’s that way because it was the first time in history that this was possible outside of the aristocracy.

The Consequences

In the 1990’s the internet did little to change privacy. It was actually a place of total anonymity, where kids and 20somethings used funny handles to mask their true identities.

But those kids have grown up, and we use the internet for commerce, networking, and socializing.

That doesn’t work if I don’t know who you are. Use your real fucking name.

It doesn’t work if I can’t find you. Join LinkedIn and make your Facebook public.

It doesn’t work if I can’t reach you. Put your email address on your Facebook. If you get spam, meh. Spam filter will deal with it.

This can’t be put back in the box. The 60 year period where people could buy anonymity has come to an end. Not having a Facebook page is about as friendly as turning off the lights and pretending you aren’t home when a friend knocks on the door—it’s your right to do it, but it prevents communication and rubs people the wrong way.

How I Deal

Photo credit: "The Geisha Who Refused to Look" by Okinawa Soba

Geisha girls understand how important your privacy is, but they charge by the hour.

All in all this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A lot of people are scared about their personal info being available to strangers. I credit this partly to misinformation (hackers will get into my email! Facebook will sell my home address to Somali pirates!), but I also credit it to delusions of grandeur. We like to think people are beating down the door to get our personal information, but we’re not that important. Sure, marketers want your contact info, but they can buy it from the Red Cross or your college alumni association. Unless you’re a senator you don’t have any enemies plotting how to use your relationship history to ruin you. (And if you are a senator your enemies will hire a P.I., so keep it in your pants)

My approach to this brave new world is to embrace it. I friend everyone who friends me, and I’ve met cool people that way. I make it easy to find my contact info, and I therefore have a reputation for being accessible and helpful. I end up getting invited to more awesome events, I network more in my field, and I reach a lot of people with my ideas.

I’ve found that the benefit of making my personal info public by far outweighs the cost. As the cost of privacy rises—a cost measured both in time and effort, but also in social opportunities and career opportunities—this will become true for more and more people.

What has your experience been with privacy, and have you “gone public”? Has the benefit outweighed the cost? And if you still try to protect your privacy—how successful do you feel you are?

L Days cover_front only_half size

My book Lúnasa Days is available on Kindle and in paperback. Get your copy here.

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