The exact physiological mechanisms to explain how exercise improves stress have not been delineated. Human and animal research indicates that being physically active improves the way the body handles stress because of changes in the hormone responses, and that exercise affects neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin that affect mood and behaviors (9,11). In addition to the possible physiological mechanisms, there also is the possibility that exercise serves as a time-out or break from one’s stressors. A study that tested the time-out hypothesis used a protocol that had participants exercise but did not allow a break from stress during the exercise session (5). Participants were college-aged women who reported that studying was their biggest stressor. Self-report of stress and anxiety symptoms was assessed with a standard questionnaire before and after four conditions over 4 days. The conditions were quiet rest, study, exercise, and studying while exercising. These conditions were counterbalanced across participants, and each condition was 40 minutes in duration. The “exercise only” condition had the greatest calming effect (5). When participants were not given a break from their stressor in the “studying while exercising” condition, exercise did not have the same calming effect.
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.
There are general recommendations for stress management that can be applied in most situations. However, keep in mind that there are individual differences and preferences, so a “cookie cutter” approach should be avoided when making recommendations. A comprehensive stress management program will include specific techniques prescribed on an individual basis, but general stress management recommendations are presented in Table 2.
Slightly higher-frequency entrainment can lead to hyper suggestive states of consciousness. Still higher-frequency EEG states are associated with alert and focused mental activity needed for the optimal performance of many tasks. Perceived reality changes depending on the state of consciousness of the perceiver (Tart, 1975). Some states of consciousness provide limited views of reality, while others provide an expanded awareness of reality. For the most part, states of consciousness change in response to the ever-changing internal environment and surrounding stimulation. For example, states of consciousness are subject to influences like drugs and circadian and ultradian rhythms (Rossi, 1986; Shannahoff-Khalsa, 1991; Webb & Dube, 1981). Specific states of consciousness can also be learned as adaptive behaviors to demanding circumstances (Green and Green, 1986).
Aside from Brain Evolution, this is another good resource for brainwave entrainment products that I recommend. They have binaural beats and isochronic tones for many different applications. The nice thing is that they are inexpensive, so you can experiment with different types and find ones that work for you. They also have a membership plan that makes experimenting even more affordable. It’s probably the best bang for the buck that I can find for brainwave entrainment.
A popular opinion in the brainwave entrainment community is that listening to isochronic tones without music produces a much stronger effect. However, in the study by Doherty, Cormac. “A comparison of alpha brainwave entrainment, with and without musical accompaniment” (2014), it was concluded that brainwave entrainment was equally effective for isochronic tones, both with and without music.
There’s also some new stuff I’ve certainly never included in tracks before including some gentle pink noise and brown noise blended together in the background with what’s called phase modulation. This is almost outside of awareness as you’re listening to it. This is how your ear tells what direction a sound is coming from. Does it arrive at your left ear slightly before your right ear? You can modulate that. So, again, it has a very gentle, imperceptible rhythmic quality to it.
^ Bittman, B. B., Snyder, C., Bruhn, K. T., Liebfreid, F., Stevens, C. K., Westengard, J., and Umbach, P. O., Recreational music-making: An integrative group intervention for reducing burnout and improving mood states in first year associate degree nursing students: Insights and economic impact" International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, Vol. 1, Article 12, 2004.
The reason this rule of thumb is so useful is because there is a huge market for simple answers. A genuine elegant solution (one that accomplishes more with less) is highly valuable in the marketplace. We are used to technology delivering new easy solutions to previously difficult tasks. While most improvements are incremental, there are occasional breakthroughs that transform our lives.
The mechanism for this is that when your eyes or ears are exposed to a particular frequency of pulses or beats, the thalamus first distributes this information to the entire brain, including the visual and cerebral cortex where neural activity begins to synchronize to the incoming frequency, producing hemispheric synchronization and a balance of brainwave activity across the brain.
The Transparent Corp forum – This forum is an invaluable resource for any brainwave entrainment user or enthusiast. Most of the feedback is obviously focused on the Transparent Corp software, but with over 20,000+ posts now you can find answers to the whole array of brainwave entrainment questions on there. (UPDATE: Sadly, the Transparent Corp forum has now been taken offline)
The exact technique that will be right for you is something you have to discover for yourself though. There is no universal way to pinpoint which technique is best for you with 100% accuracy. You may need to try out several until you find the one that really resonates with you. One way is to do a bit of research on a variety of techniques. Usually you will find one or more of them seem to “draw” you to them. Pick one of those techniques as your starting point.
Stress is a significant individual and public health problem that is associated with numerous physical and mental health concerns. It is estimated that between 75% and 90% of primary care physician visits are caused by stress-related illnesses (2). Cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, immune system suppression, headaches, back and neck pain, and sleep problems are some of the health problems associated with stress (4,8). These conditions are some of the most burdensome health problems in the United States based on health care costs, the number of people affected, and the impact on individual lives. Extreme levels of stress were reported by 22% of respondents from the 2011 Stress in America™ survey, and 39% reported that their level of stress had increased during the past year (3). More than 80% of the survey respondents at the WorldatWork Conference in 2012 reported that stress moderately or significantly contributed to their health care costs (6).
Gamma waves are the most recently discovered brainwave, a discovery made possible by digital EEG technology. Gamma is associated with the integration of information from different areas of the brain, and having a good memory is associated with having a certain baseline of 40 hertz gamma activity. Low gamma activity is associated with learning disabilities and poor memory.
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.)
“…humans have always been intrigued by the possibilities for influencing mental functioning that emerge from combining rhythmic sound and rhythmic light stimulation. Ancient rituals for entering trance states often involved both rhythmic sounds in the form of drum beats, clapping, or chanting and flickering lights produced by candles, torches, bonfires, or long lines of human bodies passing before the fire and chopping the light into mesmerizing rhythmic flashes. From Greek plays to Western opera, our most popular entertainment forms have made use of combinations of lights and sounds. Some composers, such as the visionary Scriabin, actually created music intended to be experienced in combination with rhythmic light displays.”
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.