Each of us is unique, and what works well for me might be totally useless to you. Generically speaking, there are three types of meditation techniques. There are techniques that take your awareness outwards, techniques that take your awareness inwards, and techniques that do a little of both. People with exceptionally busy minds tend to do better with techniques that take awareness outwards since their minds naturally head that direction anyway. People with more contemplative natures tend to do better with techniques that take you inwards. The combination techniques are a “maybe” for just about anyone, but are usually best used when a person has some experience with meditation under their belt.
Are you someone who has turned to meditation or yoga as a way of relieving stress and improving your overall well-being? Yoga and meditation are time-proven methods, used for centuries, which restore mental, physical, and spiritual balance in people’s lives, and brainwave entrainment can be used in conjunction with these practices for even deeper levels of benefit.
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.
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.
Brainwave entrainment is a method which utilizes frequencies of the brain in order to bring about specific desired thoughts and behavior. In other words, brainwave entrainment is used to induce different brainwave states related to: enhanced focus, relaxation, sleep induction, meditation, etc. With the help of a specific stimulus, aural (audio), photic (visual) or the combination of the two, we naturally induce the brain to respond by synchronizing with the stimulus frequency; this is called the “frequency following response”. The assumption is that the human brain has a tendency to change its dominant Electroencephalography frequency (recording of electrical activity along the scalp) towards the frequency of a dominant external stimulus. This is why we also talk about “brainwave synchronization”.
Beta: These brainwaves are associated with high levels of alertness and arousal. When beta brainwave patterns dominate, we’re primed to focus and concentrate, to make decisions and think analytically. When you’re analyzing an issue at work, you’re probably in a beta-dominant state. Beta waves are fast, with a higher frequency (between 15-40 hertz). At the higher levels of this range, beta waves are associated with anxiety.
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)
From a brainwave entrainment effectiveness perspective, it’s my understanding that the response from isochronic tones stimulation starts to diminish over 30Hz and that 40Hz is about the limit for using them. So from what I’ve read on the topic a 100Hz beat wouldn’t work, probably because it’s too fast for the brain to process and synchronise with it.
One RCT (n=108) showed significant reduction in anxiety from a single session of alpha/delta therapy for day surgery patients. A crossover RCT of a single session of theta stimulation in four healthy adults reported significant improvement from the intervention in one of five measures. Five pre/post studies reported significant benefit from the intervention for 16 of 27 outcomes.
All techniques, whether mantra, focus on the breath, contemplation of a koan, or any other, are simply the vehicles we use to take us into (hopefully) a meditative state. Put another way, the purpose of repeating a mantra is not to get proficient at repeating a mantra. The purpose is to take us to a meditative state where the mantra slips away and is no longer necessary.
This is not to say that entrainment cannot produce some physical effects, particularly negative ones. It is possible to induce epileptic seizures using entrainment, especially visual entrainment that employs flashing lights. That’s why people with seizure disorders are uniformly told to consult with their health care provider before using entrainment if they have a seizure disorder or some other serious medical condition.
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.
As strange as it may sound, vocal toning is a special technique that reduces the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Try sneaking off to a quiet place to spend a few minutes toning before a meeting with your boss and see how much more relaxed and focused you feel. It works by exercising the tiny muscles of the inner ear that help you detect the higher frequencies of human speech that impart emotion and tell you what someone is really trying to say. Not only will you feel more relaxed in that meeting, you’ll also be better able to understand what he’s trying to communicate.
Both brainwave entrainment and neurofeedback deal with brainwaves, but the similarity stops there. Entrainment pushes your whole brain into a pre-determined state, while neurofeedback teaches you how to move specific parts of your brain on your own. It is the differeence between forcing the brain into a given position, and skills building so you can move it there yourself.