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.
Making time for connecting with the people around you, spending time outside and doing things you love with family, friends and your spouse are all stress relievers that are good for your health in many ways. Social connection is tied to longevity, since it helps people feel like they’re a part of something larger than themselves and helps give them perspective. Being outdoors has some similar effects, reminding people that they’re one piece of a much larger universe, lifting their moods and making it easier to get good sleep. (12)
You might not realize it, but when you’re stressed, every muscle in your body tenses up. Taking a moment to recognize this and actively relaxing each part of your body can help. According to Whitaker, common stress-storing places are the jaw, neck, shoulders, back, and stomach. “The Instant Relaxation Technique is a deliberate tightening of the entire body, starting from the toes to the head region, and letting it go instantly,” Joshi says. “This is an effective way to become self-aware of our muscles and letting go of stress very quickly.” While you do this, picture all the negative emotion and tension leaving your body. Look out for these 8 silent signs stress is actually making you sick.
Beta waves are the most common and most prevalent in the brain. These are the brain waves of alertness, dominating your normal waking state of consciousness. The Beta state relates to “fast” activity with neurons firing abundantly, in rapid succession, with attention focused directly towards cognitive tasks and the outside world. Beta activity is engaged in focused mental activity, problem solving, judgment and decision making. New ideas and solutions to problems flash like lightning into your mind.
After fixation upon our phenomenon takes place, what started out as a random perception is now cemented into our experience of, and is conditionally associated with entrainment. We condition ourselves to relive the same experience associated with entrainment each time we use it. It isn’t random any longer. It is explicit conditioning, and it repeats as predictably as the sunrise using entrainment as its new trigger.
In fact just having a particular range of brainwaves running through our grey matter is also not “meditation”. Brainwaves are not the cause of the meditative state. They are only an indicator that we might be in a meditative state. And then again we might be in some other state as well. Those exact same brainwave frequencies are present during many different activities and states of consciousness, not just during meditation.
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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.
A therapy that slows brainwave activity, helping to produce low-frequency waves, is likely to aid relaxation and sleep. But it’s not only lowering brainwave frequency that binaural beats may offer to sleep and relaxation. A small study (19 people) has found that exposure to binaural beats is associated with changes to three hormones important to sleep and well being:
Beta brainwaves are next highest in frequency after alpha waves, occurring at 13 to 30 hertz. Beta brainwaves are what we experience every day as we are awake and using our analytic mind. Beta brainwaves are needed for concentrating on mental tasks, and when they are present for too long of a time, they lead to stress, anxiety, and even paranoia. Most people do not have trouble achieving beta brainwaves and in fact suffer from spending too much time in beta brainwave patterns. However, those with attention deficit disorder (ADD) who have problems focusing their attention can benefit from learning how to achieve and remain in beta brainwave states for longer amounts of time.
Recent research at the University of Lisbon finally uncovered the reason for the 350 year-old mystery, finding that the resonance of sound is the mechanism for entrainment of swinging pendulums and ticking clocks, and it seems likely that the energy transferred by sound is also responsible for other observations of entrainment, including brainwave entrainment.
You don’t have to run in order to get a runner’s high. All forms of exercise, including yoga and walking, can ease depression and anxiety by helping the brain release feel-good chemicals and by giving your body a chance to practice dealing with stress. You can go for a quick walk around the block, take the stairs up and down a few flights, or do some stretching exercises like head rolls and shoulder shrugs.
Binaural beats must be listened to using headphones. You definitely should not use them while driving or operating heavy machinery as you will be in an altered state of mind. Brainwave entrainment is a form of meditation and designed to be very passive, in fact, all you need to do is sit back, put on your headphones and let the technology do the work for you. It is best to find a session that you find soothing to listen to, as binaural beats on their own are a very strange sound that can be disturbing to some listeners. This was actually what inspired me to invent Trypnaural as a way for brainwave entrainment to be more bearable to listen to for long periods of time.
Really great stuff here, man. Well done! Without taking anything away from the article it would have been great to have under one “roof” similar information about hypnotherapy and subliminals. I invested quite a lot in buying binaural cd’s but after reading your material I think that for short term effects isochronic tones rather than binaurals are the technology to go for now. For longer lasting and possibly permanent effects I’m not sure whether I should go for hypnosis or subliminals (or both). An article as well written and comprehensive as yours but focusing on hypnosis vs subliminals would have completed the circle for me. The stuff I’ve read so far on binaurals vs isochronics hasn’t really done it for me. Any chance you could give it a shot?
Science shows that massages reduce stress, but you don’t have to go to the spa—you can give yourself one right now. “Learning how to self-massage your foot, head, neck, or shoulders reduces the stress hormone cortisol, boosts your immune system, and increases the feel-good hormones oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin,” Dr. Serani says. You can even use a tennis ball or cold water bottle on your feet or neck. In addition, try rubbing pressure points like the webbing between your thumb and index finger, or your inner wrist. Another technique is the EFT tapping technique, literally tapping certain points on your body such as in between your eyes, your temples, and the center of your collarbone. “Tapping brings cleansing energy to the meridian points, as your mind directs the energy to what’s unbalanced in the body,” Whitaker says. “This restores your mind and body’s natural balance, which aids in releasing stress, worry, fears, and disharmony.”
When stress attacks, it can feel like your whole world is crashing down. Remind yourself what’s good in your life with a quick gratitude round-up. “Studies show gratitude techniques like counting your blessings can be a significant stress reducer,” Dr. Serani says. “Gratitude research reports that those who utilize daily gratitude reflections have higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism, and lower levels of depression and stress.” Reminding yourself of the good things in life can put stress in perspective. “Studies show that cultivating an optimistic mindset can help you maintain a positive mood,” Whitaker says. “When you are positive and grateful, you are able to handle difficult situations better.” Just look out for these stress relievers that actually backfire.
“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.”
It is also possible that some people experience headaches which are almost always the result of the binaural waves. Fortunately LifeFlow can also be used without headphones, since it contains not only binaural waves but other forms as well. If you’re one of the people who suffer from headaches using entrainment, you can take off the headphones and use LifeFlow over open speakers. This usually solves the problem.
For example, if a 530 Hz pure tone is presented to a subject's right ear, while a 520 Hz pure tone is presented to the subject's left ear, the listener will perceive the auditory illusion of a third tone, in addition to the two pure-tones presented to each ear. The third sound is called a binaural beat, and in this example would have a perceived pitch correlating to a frequency of 10 Hz, that being the difference between the 530 Hz and 520 Hz pure tones presented to each ear.
If you’re going to enter a state of meditation, a technique of some sort must be employed that takes you there. (Note – I am fully aware of references to “spontaneous enlightenment experiences”, but these are an entirely different category of phenomena than what is being discussed here and are outside the scope of this discussion. Perhaps another time.)
This incredible app which you not only has over 3 hours of meditations valued at $200, the technology utilized is unlike anything else on the marketplace. The heartbeat synchronization augmentation gives you a completely immersive experiencing, tuning in to your body’s natural rhythms. It gives you the best binaural music on the market. Fully customizable, you can base your meditation on your mood, goals and timeframe. This is the perfect app for a deep, introspective experience.
Group exercise or encouraging stressed clients to find a workout partner is an excellent idea because it can provide a support network and accountability. However, there might be clients who find a group setting intimidating or competitive, which could be counterproductive in managing stress. In addition, those who report stress because of work or family obligations might enjoy the solitude of exercising alone. Using a variety of exercises or nontraditional exercises (e.g., exergaming, dance classes, yard work, or rock climbing) is a way to plan activities that are enjoyable to maximize adherence. Knowing your clients’ exercise barriers and stressors will help with planning an exercise program that can address these variables to maximize the benefits for health and stress management.
When your thoughts start to spin out of control during a stressful moment, stop and reframe your thinking. “By your choice of perspective, you direct how your body will respond—in fight or flight, or in creative choices and solution-based responses,” says Lauren E. Miller, stress relief and personal excellence expert and the author of 5 Minutes to Stress Relief. If you’re stressed about something you fear happening, such as “I’m not going to get this project done and then my boss will fire me,” think instead of what a great opportunity it is to show your boss you’re a hard worker. “Resist the urge to cast yourself as the main character in dramas that have not even occurred,” Miller says. Also, instead of asking why something is happening, ask what you can do to fix it. “Asking ‘why’ pitches you in an endless loop of questions, whereas asking ‘what’ sets you into problem-solving mode,” says Deborah Serani, PsyD, award-winning author of Living with Depression and a psychology professor at Adelphi University. “Moving forward instead of being lost in the circle of worries and “whys” helps to reduce stress.” Try these simple mindfulness stress relievers.
Hi. This article contains a lot of information about brainwave entertainment. Thanks. I have a question. I downloaded an Android app that plays isochronic tones. I like to use an Isochronic tone at 2.5Hz that is in Delta range and is supposed to help me get a deep and dreamless sleep. I use it without headphones and just keep the smartphone next to my pillow. But I do not know if I should keep the tone playing all the time while I sleep or put it on timer to shut off after some specified time. A custom timer is possible with the app. Can you please guide me.
Thanks for the reply. I am now clearer on ‘what’ is heard. Can you expand or point me in direction ..a bit more about ‘pitch frequency’ and frequency spoken about and what exactly is the difference ..and how we use the higher pitch frequencies to ‘hear’ or become aware of them? Would you only pick up the low freq on a EEG?. sorry for being pedantic ..it still does not clear up split isochronics and possibly creating same situation as binaural beats..
If you search the Internet for "binaural beats" you'll quickly find there's a whole industry built on the idea that listening to binaural beats can produce all kinds of desired effects in your brain. It can alter your mood, help you follow a diet or stop smoking, get you pumped up for a competition, calm you down, put you to sleep, enhance your memory, act as an aphrodisiac, cure headaches, and even balance your chakra. Binaural-Beats.com offers a $30 CD that they call the world's first "digital drug". They claim it can get you drunk without the side effects. I-Doser.com offers a range of music tracks that they say simulates a variety of actual pharmaceuticals, such as Demerol, Oxycontin, and Vicodin. Suffice it to say that no matter what superpower you're looking for, someone on the Internet sells a binaural beat audio file claimed to provide it.
“Like the pulses of vibration that produce sound on a guitar string, your brain also creates pulses of vibrations. These vibrations are electrical impulses,” continues Naik. “Their activity can be measured by using an EEG (electroencephalogram), which measures the frequency of these pulses [which is measured in Hertz]. Your brain actually has a predominant frequency at which it operates in any given moment; this can be associated with your state of mind.”
Passively listening to binaural beats may not spontaneously propel you into an altered state of consciousness. One's subjective experience in response to binaural-beat stimulation may also be influenced by a number of mediating factors. For example, the willingness and ability of the listener to relax and focus attention may contribute to binaural-beat effectiveness in inducing state changes. "Ultradian rhythms in the nervous system are characterized by periodic changes in arousal and states of consciousness (Rossi, 1986).
It might seem obvious that you’d know when you’re stressed, but many of us spend so much time in a frazzled state that we’ve forgotten what it feels like when our nervous systems are in balance: when we’re calm yet still alert and focused. If this is you, you can recognize when you’re stressed by listening to your body. When you’re tired, your eyes feel heavy and you might rest your head on your hand. When you’re happy, you laugh easily. And when you’re stressed, your body lets you know that, too. Get in the habit of paying attention to your body’s clues.
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.
Binaural beats can easily be heard at the low frequencies (< 30 Hz) that are characteristic of the EEG spectrum (Oster, 1973). This perceptual phenomenon of binaural beating and the objective measurement of the frequency-following response (Hink, Kodera, Yamada, Kaga, & Suzuki, 1980) suggest conditions which facilitate entrainment of brain waves and altered states of consciousness. There have been numerous anecdotal reports and a growing number of research efforts reporting changes in consciousness associated with binaural-beats. "The subjective effect of listening to binaural beats may be relaxing or stimulating, depending on the frequency of the binaural-beat stimulation" (Owens & Atwater, 1995). Binaural beats in the delta (1 to 4 Hz) and theta (4 to 8 Hz) ranges have been associated with reports of relaxed, meditative, and creative states (Hiew, 1995), and used as an aid to falling asleep. Binaural beats in the alpha frequencies (8 to 12 Hz) have increased alpha brain waves (Foster, 1990) and binaural beats in the beta frequencies (typically 16 to 24 Hz) have been associated with reports of increased concentration or alertness (Monroe, 1985) and improved memory (Kennerly, 1994).
These tones are similar in that they pulse like binaural beats. The difference is that they don’t need to be listened to using headphones as the pulse, or beat, is not generated by two different frequencies. The sound is an on/off pulse. Although you don’t need headphones to seperate the frequencies listened to, they are recommended. I’ve had just as much response to isochronic tones as I’ve had to binaural beats. I’d try both though, especially if you don’t respond to one or the other.
The brain has two hemispheres that operate somewhat independently from one another. The two hemispheric structures of the brain are connected by a large nerve, called the corpus callosum, which sends information back and forth between the two sides of the brain. In most people, the left hemisphere controls language, logical thinking, and analytic processes and the right side contains the centers for emotion, intuition, and non-linear creative thinking.
Dealing with sudden stress—a phone call with bad news, a last-minute assignment from your boss, or an argument with your spouse—triggers a cascade of physical and mental symptoms that can be hard to stop. The first thing to do? Pay attention to your breathing pattern, and make an effort to start taking slow, deep breaths as stress relievers. “Breathing can change how we feel because emotions and breathing are closely connected,” says Emma Seppala, PhD, author of The Happiness Track and a Stanford University psychologist who’s done research on yogic breathing. “A revealing research study showed that different emotional states are associated with distinct respiration patterns.” In a follow-up study, participants actually started to feel the emotions that corresponded to an assigned breathing pattern. “This finding is revolutionary: We can change how we feel using our breath!” Dr. Seppala says. Deep breathing gets more oxygen to your brain and may lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
This music encourages a state of alpha relaxation. The alpha state is a pleasant state of relaxed alertness. It’s a state that many people experience when they are waking up in the morning or when they are just beginning to drift off to sleep at night. While in a state of alpha relaxation, the mind is quite clear and receptive to information, learning is accelerated and one’s sense of creativity is enhanced. The mind is also very open to positive suggestions during this state.
The objectives and inclusion criteria of the review were clear. Relevant sources were searched for studies, although the restriction to published studies in English meant that the review was prone to publication and language biases. The authors did not state whether steps were taken to minimise the risk of bias and error in the processes of study selection and data extraction (for example, by having more than one reviewer independently make decisions). The authors mentioned which studies were blinded, but it did not appear that study validity was systematically assessed, which made it difficult to judge the reliability of the review findings. The decision to combine studies by narrative synthesis appeared appropriate given the strong clinical heterogeneity between the studies, but the authors failed to quantify the size or statistical significance of the findings reported. The evidence presented appeared to justify the authors’ conclusions that further research was justified, but in view of the dearth of good-quality evidence and problems with methodology and reporting in the review, the conclusions regarding efficacy did not appear reliable.