Yoga has been shown to have similar benefits, reinforcing the “mind-body connection,” improving how people (especially women) feel about their bodies, helping with sleep and controlling anxiety. A review of over 35 clinical trials that tested the effects of regular yoga on stress levels and health found that, overall, yoga offers significant improvements in various physical and psychological health markers for the majority of people. (3)
Stress affects your whole body, so find a pick-me-up for each of your senses. Turning on a favorite tune uses your sense of hearing for a science-backed burst of good feeling, and using aromatherapy uses your sense of smell to relax you. “Oils like lavender and lemon reduce stress,” Dr. Serani says. “Also, don’t forget that your sense of smell is the most nostalgic of all your senses,” so if you have a scent that reminds you of comfort, keep it on hand to sniff when you’re freaking out. Your sense of touch can be employed by stroking a “talisman”—a favorite or sentimental item—or even an “intention stick,” which you can hold like a wand to feel more in control. Chew gum to use your sense of taste to curb stress (scientists think it’s the lasting flavor, not just the act of chewing itself, that makes gum such a great stress reliever). Besides using your mind’s eye to visualize a happy place, you can use your sense of sight to look at calming images—cat videos on the Internet have actually been scientifically proven to lower stress.
Thanks to e-mail, cell phones, and BlackBerrys, it seems like your job never ends. The increasingly blurry boundaries between work and home life leave us with less downtime than ever before (and in some cases, no downtime!). Advances in technology are a leading source of chronic stress, putting many of us in a constant state of alert. Not to mention the effect it has on family ties. A recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found a link between the use of cell phones and pagers at home and increased stress, which spills over into family life. To make technology work for you, screen calls with caller ID or, better yet, limit your cell phone and e-mail use to working hours only. Can't kick the BlackBerry habit? Set a regular time you'll check it in the evening (say, after dinner), so you're not constantly disrupting home life to keep tabs on work. (The one exception: using your device to breathe with this anxiety-reducing GIF.)
Well … to understand the role entrainment plays in meditation, think of a water pump. Most of you have lived in areas where you have access to city water. You turn the knob on the tap, water comes out, end of story. If you grew up like I did, on a farm with a local well, then you probably know that in order to get the water flowing from a well you must first “prime the pump”. (Those of you who remember the days when cars all had carburetors rather than fuel injectors might also remember running out of gas and needing to prime the carburetor with a little gasoline. It’s the same principle.)
It cannot be any wonder then that we are almost desperate to find some sign, some indication that meditation and brainwave entrainment is having tangible, definable effects. We seize on these odd little experiences like ‘flushing of the face’ or ‘seeing spirals of color’ when our eyes are closed, hoping these are signs suggesting the elusive relief we’ve been after is finally within our grasp. We ask others to validate our experiences so that we can reassure ourselves we’re on the right track at last.
Nothing is more stressful than being unprepared. Get organized so you're ready for the next day, taking a few minutes to make a to-do list and clean up before you leave. Knowing you've got everything covered means you'll be less likely to fret about work in the evenings. When you come in the next morning, you'll have the sense that you're in control of the situation and can handle it. This sets a positive tone for the day, which can help you get more accomplished. (You can even turn your nightly beauty routine into a stress-relieving practice.)
In 1956, the famous neuroscientist W. Gray Walter published the results of studying thousands of test subjects using photic stimulation, showing their change in mental and emotional states. He also learned that photic stimulation not only altered brainwaves, but that these changes were occurring in areas of the brain outside of vision. In Walter’s words:
There are many ways to reduce tension and relax, but some are more effective than others. Some techniques are difficult to learn while others are challenging to practice. Others have negative consequences that almost outweigh their effectiveness or can create bigger problems. Here are ten stress relievers proven to be among the most effective for the amount of work and time involved. Most can be learned in the time it takes to read this page and will help you to feel more relaxed almost immediately. And even more exciting, the stress relief benefits will increase with regular practice. Try as many as you can—there's something here for everyone.
While visual entrainment is more powerful than audio alone for inducing desired brainwave states, more caution is needed when using visual methods. Between 0.3 and 3 percent of the population is susceptible to having seizures from flickering light stimulation, and for other people, flickering visual stimuli simply makes them uncomfortable. People with epilepsy have a greater chance of having a seizure from exposure to flickering light stimulation.
Our state of mind, mood, energy level, motivation, and overall well-being all emerge out of the electrical energy produced by our brains. Do you want more control of your moods and thoughts every day? If so, brainwave entrainment is a method which greatly assists many people in finding greater relaxation, better moods, and less anxiety in a way similar to how music uplifts and rejuvenates us, and brainwave entrainment techniques are available embedded into musical arrangements, giving you the benefits of both modalities.
You know how movie characters always look themselves in the restroom mirror when faced with a tough situation? Well, giving yourself a quick pep talk in the looking glass can actually help relieve stress. “‘Mirror work‘ is done by looking in a mirror and vocally speaking positive affirmations to yourself with affectionate conviction, to release worry or to improve your self-confidence,” Whitaker says. To relieve stress in the moment, she suggests using a restroom mirror, your car’s rear-view mirror, or even a compact. “Calm your mind by saying encouraging affirmations aloud to yourself, such as, ‘I am excellent at what I do,’ ‘I’ve got this! I am amazing,’ ‘I am an asset to this company,’ or ‘I am awesome!’” she says.
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Theta is very subtle. It is one of the most elusive and extraordinary brain states you can explore. Theta is a state of somnolence with reduced consciousness; you are neither fully awake nor asleep yet. It is also known as the “Twilight state” or “Stage 1 Sleep” which you normally only experience fleetingly as you wake or drift off to sleep. In the Theta brain state, your senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused on signals originating from within.
Let’s face it, the stress we face today isn’t going anywhere, which is exactly why it’s more important than ever to find natural ways to bust stress that work well for us. If you’re up against large amounts of stress in your life (and who isn’t?), studies show you can greatly benefit from carving out more time in your busy schedule for things like regular exercise, meditation, spending time outdoors and keeping up with fun hobbies.
Once you begin to experience the beneficial aspects of brainwave entrainment, you may be tempted to have these tracks playing all the time during your waking and sleeping hours. This is NOT advisable, nor is it necessary. Remember, brainwave entrainment is exercise for your brain so your brain will need to rest and integrate the new changes that your entrainment regime is creating.
A common element in recordings incorporating alpha and theta frequencies is a steady but barely perceptible rhythm of the frequencies themselves. This subtle and calming pulse mixes with sounds of gentle breezes, distant bird songs, and the slow progression of deep synth notes. Underneath this, below the audible sounds at sub 16 hertz levels, other frequencies intermingle, deepening the merging of conscious and unconscious mind.
With the binaural beats, this may be difficult to do since you need to listen to the twin frequencies and allow your brain to create a third one to bridge the gap. Ideally, you will be listening to these beats through headphones so carrying out other work may be challenge. However, with isochronic frequencies, the tone can be heard without headphones which means you can run the mp3 with a speaker and allow it to play in the background as you carry out your work. Of course, activities such as driving or operating heavy machinery should NOT be undertaken when you are listening to these tones because your attention is shared between the two tasks. Tasks like gardening or sewing or cooking can be done while your brainwave entrainment music is playing.
But the question is: Does it have a special effect on the brain? A lot of people think so. The basic claim being made for binaural beats is "resonant entrainment". Entrainment, in physics, is when two systems which oscillate at different frequencies independently are brought together, they synchronize with one another, at whatever the combined system's resonant frequency is. Examples of entrainment occur in animals in nature; for example the chirping of crickets or the croaking of frogs. Synchronization of menstrual cycles in women is another example. Even people coming together and dancing with one another is a type of entrainment. The basic claim for binaural beats is that the perceived low-frequency beat will entrain your brain wave pattern, thus forcing your brain into some desired state.
The body responds in essentially the same way to made-up imagery as it does to real experiences. Positive, relaxing images can be an effective tool for relieving stress. Try it for yourself with this Guided Imagery podcast from our Founder and Director Dr. James Gordon, or check out Dr. Gordon’s book Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression for dozens more techniques, including scripts for guided imagery exercises.
“The great neuroscientist W. Gray Walter carried out a series of experiments in the late forties and fifties in which he used an electronic stroboscopic device in combination with EEG equipment to send rhythmic light flashes into the eyes of the subjects at frequencies ranging from ten to twenty five flashes per second. He was startled to find that the flickering seemed to alter the brain-wave activity of the whole cortex instead of just the areas associated with vision. Wrote Walter, “The rhythmic series of flashes appear to be breaking down some of the physiologic barriers between different regions of the brain. This means the stimulus of flicker received by the visual projection area of the cortex was breaking bounds— its ripples were overflowing into other areas.”
When you hit a tuning fork, tuned to a particular sound frequency such as the note B, and hold it close to the strings of a guitar, you will notice that the B string on the guitar will vibrate because it has entrained on to the same frequency of the tuning fork. Interesting enough, the other strings will not vibrate. Only the one with the same tuning as the tuning fork.
Research: the authors stated that qualitative electroencephalogram signatures needed to be developed for different disorders and tested using standard validated methods of psychological assessment. Larger RCTs were needed with clear inclusion criteria for participants. The RCTs should measure qualitative EEG, hormone levels and the time of day of the intervention. Interventions protocols should be clearly defined and the relationship between session frequency/ duration and outcomes should be explored. More studies of auditory stimulation were needed, as well as studies comparing different types of stimulation, monaural, binaural and isochronic beats and use of white noise versus music.