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.
Given that brainwaves control and connect such a vast range of human experience from thought to feelings to actions, it is easy to see how the deliberate control of brainwaves can affect mood, behaviors, motivation, and even physical health. Brainwave entrainment is a safe, simple, and scientifically proven method for quickly guiding the brain into a beneficial brainwave frequency to facilitate healthy sleep, lower stress, heal emotional problems, and improve physical health.
The various mental states of the individual are thought to take place across a varied range of frequencies, or brainwaves. By encouraging the frequency following process, entrainment is able to create positive change in the brain, through matching carefully-selected frequencies of light and/or sound. The stimulus enables the individual to access a different state of consciousness, which can be useful for a number of benefits including relaxation, anxiety management, stress reduction and more.
The Delta brainwave is experienced by us every night in dreamless sleep. It is also experienced by advanced yogis and monks who can enter the Delta frequency during deep meditation. This frequency assists in both emotional and physical healing, as well as enhanced immune functioning, significant stress reduction, and even anti-aging benefits. The Delta frequency is a terrific way to experience deep repair on the physical, emotional, and psychological levels.
However, with this integration will come upheavals as the mind is forced to integrate areas of the brain that were previously sequestered. Repressed memories and unpleasant emotions from the past will often rise to the surface of the mind to be processed and healed. This is sometimes referred to as "processing the shadow" within one's mind and emotions.
Stress can either be perceived as feeling good/positive or bad/negative depending on the context, and the body reacts differently to both kinds. However, where the body isn’t so clever is distinguishing between very serious threats (like being robbed or starved) and events that are stressful but not actually life-threatening. Unfortunately, whether a problem is very serious or not, the body usually has no way of knowing the difference− — anything that causes you to worry, anticipate, regret, overthink or panic can send your stress levels through the roof.
Meditations that cultivate mindfulness have long been used to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions. Some of these practices bring you into the present by focusing your attention on a single repetitive action, such as your breathing or a few repeated words. Other forms of mindfulness meditation encourage you to follow and then release internal thoughts or sensations. Mindfulness can also be applied to activities such as walking, exercising, or eating.
Binaural beats are an auditory illusion where two oscillators, slightly detuned from each other, are played simultaneously with one perceived by each ear. The human brain mixes the audio from each ear, and the listener perceives a "beating" effect that isn't actually there. This is a well-studied phenomenon that has gained the interest of audiologists and neurologists, but it's most famous for being picked up by the alternative medicine community as a way to get high.
Gamma brainwaves occur during creative thinking and processing of memory and language and in many learning activities. These brainwaves are not present at all when a person is under anesthesia, but return as soon as the person becomes conscious again. Multiple scientific studies have shown gamma brainwave entrainment to be helpful for reducing distractibility, improving short-term memory, improving motor coordination, and relieving migraine headaches.
In addition, Western culture reinforces thought and communication styles associated with the left brain hemisphere, which controls logic, language, and linear thinking in a majority of people, as opposed to the right hemisphere which controls brain centers for emotional, intuitive, creative, and non-linear thought processes. Note that a significant minority of people has the opposite hemispheric dominance than the majority of people.
There's nothing like anxiety to annihilate your sense of humor. It would follow, then, that it's impossible to feel stressed when you're hunched over in a fit of giggles. Studies have shown, in fact, that laughter not only relieves tension, but actually improves immune function. Swap jokes with your friends. Rent a funny movie. Stop taking things so seriously!
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.
Brainwave Entrainment is an assisted form of meditation using pulses of sound. Entrainment is a process of synchronizing two different beats to become harmonious. Brainwave entrainment works by pulsing a different sound in each ear to stimulate the brain into altered states of consciousness. Examples including Binaural Beats and Isochronic Tones, which are best experienced with headphones to assist with relaxation, deep sleep and focus.
A study published in Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology by Paul Williams and Michael West in 1975 examined the brainwave states of people experienced in meditation while using photic stimulation, and another study by Leonard, Telch, and Harrington in 1999 examined the successful use of brainwave entrainment techniques for attaining meditative states in subjects.
Controversies concerning the brain, mind, and consciousness have existed since the early Greek philosophers argued about the nature of the mind-body relationship, and none of these disputes has been resolved. Modern neurologists have located the mind in the brain and have said that consciousness is the result of electrochemical neurological activity. There are, however, growing observations to the contrary. There is no neuro-physiological research which conclusively shows that the higher levels of mind (intuition, insight, creativity, imagination, understanding, thought, reasoning, intent, decision, knowing, will, spirit, or soul) are located in brain tissue (Hunt, 1995). A resolution to the controversies surrounding the higher mind and consciousness and the mind-body problem in general may need to involve an epistemological shift to include extra-rational ways of knowing (de Quincey, 1994) and cannot be comprehended by neuro-chemical brain studies alone. We are in the midst of a revolution focusing on the study of consciousness (Owens, 1995). Penfield, an eminent contemporary neurophysiologist, found that the human mind continued to work in spite of the brain's reduced activity under anesthesia. Brain waves were nearly absent while the mind was just as active as in the waking state. The only difference was in the content of the conscious experience. Following Penfield's work, other researchers have reported awareness in comatose patients (Hunt, 1995) and there is a growing body of evidence which suggests that reduced cortical arousal while maintaining conscious awareness is possible (Fischer, 1971;West 1980; Delmonte, 1984; Goleman 1988; Jevning, Wallace, & Beidenbach, 1992; Wallace, 1986; Mavromatis, 1991). These states are variously referred to as meditative, trance, altered, hypnogogic, hypnotic, and twilight-learning states (Budzynski, 1986). Broadly defined, the various forms of altered states rest on the maintenance of conscious awareness in a physiologically reduced state of arousal marked by parasympathetic dominance (Mavromatis, 1991). Recent physiological studies of highly hypnotizable subjects and adept meditators indicate that maintaining awareness with reduced cortical arousal is indeed possible in selected individuals as a natural ability or as an acquired skill (Sabourin, Cutcomb, Crawford, & Pribram, 1993). More and more scientists are expressing doubts about the neurologists' brain-mind model because it fails to answer so many questions about our ordinary experiences, as well as evading our mystical and spiritual ones. The scientific evidence supporting the phenomenon of remote viewing alone is sufficient to show that mind-consciousness is not a local phenomenon (McMoneagle, 1993).
Effects on cortisol: The hormone cortisol is commonly associated with stress, and when levels are higher than usual, it can have a negative impact on the body. High levels of cortisol can lead to a range of conditions, including Cushing syndrome, menstrual cycle and female libido changes, anxiety, and depression. Dr. Giampapa noted a reduction of cortisol of up to 70-80 percent in several study participants.
For those who accept that we are spiritual beings currently experiencing a physical existence, with consistent practice of meditation and brainwave entrainment, you get all of the above, plus; a deeper feeling of connection and oneness with all things; a heightened sense of relationship with the Divine, whether you believe in an anthropomorphic God or just an All-Inclusive Presence; more peace and confidence in the Divine and less reliance on dogmatic policies and practices (this is not to say that dogma and ritual do not have their proper time and place!); more freedom from the fear of death; greater hope for that which comes after this life; a greater appreciation for and sense of relationship to others, even when others act in ways that are not in our personal best interests, and much, much more.
In addition to potentially boosting sleep-promoting hormones, binaural beats may also reduce our perceptions of pain. A 2017 study found binaural beats used in combination with visual stimulation led to reductions in patients’ perception of acute pain. Other recent research showed binaural beats helped improve pain perception in patients with chronic pain.
Some research suggests that the benefits from brainwave entrainment can last a lot longer, and still be seen for some time after you've stopped using it. Study participants have still maintained improved test scores a few weeks after the stimulation had ceased. Research on the long-term benefits has so far been minimal though, so how long the effects last is still up for debate.
By exposing an individual to repeatedly external stimulus which can be flashing lights and/or recurring sounds, the entrainment process consists in pushing the brain to adjust to match the frequency provided. Unlike other forms of neurotherapy which require the individual to actively respond to stimulus, entrainment creates an immediate neurophysical response which is instinctive and effortless for the person being provided with the light and/or sound combinations. The key outcome of the sensory stimulation is known as the ‘Frequency Following Response’.
Joe: The Journey soundscape took a lot of work. I wanted to bring in the very best of what I knew about brainwave entrainment and to make the best brainwave entrainment product—with the best entrainment technology—that I possibly could. So, there are all sorts of things going on in Journey to provide a sound bed to support the experience of expansiveness and also communicate elements of the heart-based work I talked about earlier. (See part I of this interview, A Guide to Transpersonal Meditation.)
The pitch frequency measures and describes what a beat sounds like, i.e. does the isochronic beat have a deeper bass sound, or is it high pitched and sharper sounding? The beat waveform frequency describes how many times the beat is repeating per second, i.e. how fast it is beating. You don’t really need to concern yourself about the pitch frequency, as that doesn’t have a direct influence on brainwave entrainment and doesn’t play a part on the measurement on an EEG. I only mentioned it because you were referring to humans not being able to hear below 20Hz. I change the pitch frequency just to suit the mood of the track. For tracks that are to be relaxing, for meditation or sleep, I tend to use a lower pitch frequency so it sounds deeper and more relaxing and I never have that lower than 100Hz. For an energizing, high focus track I might use a more higher pitched 200Hz isochronic tone, because that is sharper sounding and less likely to make you feel sleepy. That’s all you really need to know about the pitch frequency.
Changes in neural oscillations, demonstrable through electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements, are precipitated by listening to music, which can modulate autonomic arousal ergotropically and trophotropically, increasing and decreasing arousal respectively. Musical auditory stimulation has also been demonstrated to improve immune function, facilitate relaxation, improve mood, and contribute to the alleviation of stress. These findings have contributed to the development of neurologic music therapy, which uses music and song as an active and receptive intervention, to contribute to the treatment and management of disorders characterized by impairment to parts of the brain and central nervous system, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer's disease, and autism.