Cortisol is the principle hormone (although not the only hormone) tied to our innate “flight-or-fight” response, which is how the body reacts to acute stress by either helping us run from the situation or stick around and fight our way through. When short spikes in cortisol/adrenaline happen over and over again nearly every day, they cause wear and tear on the body and speed up the aging process.
Binaural beats are pretty simple. Basically, you take two frequencies that are similar and play each one through it’s own stereo headphone. The two competing frequencies will work together in your mind to produce a pulsing. That pulse will be a certain frequency that corresponds to a number in hertz that is linked to what your brain produces when you are in certain states of consciousness.
Stress: We all deal with it, yet we know how much better off we’d be — both physically and mentally — if we could only get it under control and find stress relievers that really work. While stress can be a positive, motivating factor at times (such as when you’re under pressure to perform well at work or to ace an important exam), more and more research shows that chronic stress impacts the body in ways similar to a poor diet, lack of sleep or sedentary lifestyle.
The immobilization response. If you’ve experienced some type of trauma and tend to “freeze” or become “stuck” under stress, your challenge is to first rouse your nervous system to a fight or flight response (above) so you can employ the applicable stress relief techniques. To do this, choose physical activity that engages both your arms and legs, such as running, dancing, or tai chi, and perform it mindfully, focusing on the sensations in your limbs as you move.
Escape from a stressful situation by remembering a favorite vacation spot or a place where you feel cozy and at home. “Make sure to take note of every detail of your favorite spot—the more detailed your visualization, the more stress gets kicked to the curb,” Dr. Serani says. “For me, it’s a beautiful spot on the beach in my native Long Island. But it’s not just the white velvet sand of the beach or the teal blue ocean water; it’s the sounds of the surf, the tang of the salt water, the feel of the sun, the waves in the distance, and the imagined walk I take along the water.” You can combine this with a three-word mantra like “blue-ocean-water,” Serani suggests. Miller calls the visualization of a memory that evokes a positive association an “anchor.” She remembers watching beautiful sunsets in Costa Rica. “Now that I am back in the hustle and bustle of life, I will often pause and take mini-retreats, bringing up the anchored experience of inner calm that I felt watching the sunsets,” she says.
We may use the term “to meditate” as a convenience, but always keep in mind, what is really meant is that we enter into a state of meditation. It’s an important point to distinguish because if we get caught in the trap of regarding meditation “as a verb” it leads into all sorts of problems and misunderstandings. If a person incorrectly believes meditation is a verb, they generally also confuse whatever technique they use to arrive at a state of meditation as being meditation in and of itself.
“In order to get into a flow state, you have to calm a part of the brain, the posterior cingulate cortex, which is the source of what brain scientists call the default state, which is the non-focused state,” says Harris. “At any rate, it turns out that Holosync [binaural beats], when you listen to it, [calms that part of the brain] and so does traditional meditation. It’s just Holosync does it faster and more easily and more effortlessly. It turns down the posterior cingulate cortex and it enhances the other part of the brain that, when it’s enhanced, you can easily go into a flow state.”
This can help develop the ability to see energy fields around people and in nature, and it will also make it much easier to stay awake during your meditations. When your eyes begin to close, you simply have to open them back up again. Doing the meditations with your eyes open is a serious step up in exercising your brain, so go slow with that technique at first.
Sound and light are the most popular methods to entrain the mind, yet there are a few other options in our toolbox. Using vibrational energy from sources such as magnets and electricity has been proven to help overcome addictions, depression, and even treat neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. In this section, we cover these alternative forms of brainwave entrainment.
Today, EEG machines are used for diagnosing epilepsy and sleep disorders, for determining dosages for anesthesia, and measuring the brain activity of people in comas or suffering from brain trauma. EEG machines also continue to play a role in researching and understanding brainwave entrainment and developing new and better methods for delivering the benefits of this form of brainwave modification.
People who are new to meditation sometimes complain that they find it too difficult to silence their thoughts. This is perfectly normal and in fact, if you are new to meditation you should not expect to achieve absolute mental silence in the next day or two. Even the most experience meditators still have their good days and bad days when it comes to meditation and a certain amount of mental activity during meditation is quite normal.
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.
If brainwave entrainment leaves you with unwanted side-effects (see below) or discomfort, you’re probably encouraging a range of brainwaves that are already excessive in some area of your brain. The way around this is to get a brain map to see what your brain’s strengths and weaknesses are, and see what (if any) brainwaves could use some encouragement.