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.
When you play a tone with a slightly different frequency into your left and right ear — say, 200 hertz (Hz) in one and 210 Hz in the other — they travel separately to your inferior colliculus, the part of your brain that gathers auditory input. There, the tones “squelch” together into a so-called “beat” at a perceived new frequency. (In this case, it would be 10 Hz.)
Binaural beats are dual tones, each one slightly different from the other. You hear one tone in each ear and your brain responds by creating a tone to reconcile the difference between the two. Isochronic tones are single tones. The variation in pattern here is brought in by interspersing silence between the sound, which means that your isochronic tone does not have a continuous sound but tones broken up by silences. Studies show that isochronic tones have far more contrast than binaural beats because of the silence and sound pattern. This sharp contrast evokes a faster impact from your brain, prompting it to match the frequency more quickly. Also, isochronic tones are found to be stronger stimulants to the brain.
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).
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.
Exercise can be an effective component of a stress management program for many individuals and should be recommended to help those who are dealing with acute, acute episodic, or chronic stress. An advantage of incorporating exercise into a stress management program compared with other stress management techniques is the well-documented physical and psychological health benefits of exercise. However, it is important to remember that exercise is only one component of a stress management program, and there might be situations that require assistance beyond the expertise of a fitness professional, especially in working with individuals who are experiencing acute episodic or chronic stress. Although exercise might be effective in helping an individual feel calmer who is dealing with these types of stress, it will not solve the problem of major chronic or regular stressors. It may be necessary to refer these individuals to resources who can help them to address their stressors, such as a psychologist or other health care providers.
Gamma brainwaves possess the highest frequency we know of. In this state, our brainwaves are so harmonious that many people report feeling elevated states of consciousness, even spiritual experiences. This frequency is often experienced by monks, nuns, yogis, and experienced meditators. Gamma frequencies also enhance memory, awareness, and mental processing.
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.
“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.”
Several adaptogenic herbs and essential oils have been shown to improve anxiety symptoms by reducing the effects that stress and cortisol have on the body. Adaptogens (including ginseng, ashwagandga, maca, rhodiola, holy basil and cocoa) are a unique class of healing plants that balance, restore and protect the body and make it easier to handle stress by regulating hormones and physiological functions.
When blended with musical sounds, brainwave entrainment frequencies induce specific states of mind, which are the result of those brainwaves, delivering them in pleasing and relaxing audio tracts for use with and without stereo headphones. For example, alpha and theta waves, because they exist at the borders between conscious and unconscious thought, are especially rich and useful for tapping into and stimulating subconscious processes.
Take a hint from Taylor Swift and literally shake your body to release tension—but you probably want to do this one in private, or your coworkers might wonder what you’re up to! “In Africa and other cultures, shaking therapy is used for emotional healing—literally shaking off your perceived emotional threat of fear, self-doubt, or worry,” Miller says. “Next time you find yourself emotional because of a specific situation that side swipes you in life, imagine the irritation beading up on your body and start shaking it off from your feet all the way up to the top of your head.” Picture an animal shaking off after getting out of the water, and use the shaking as a release of the emotional attachments causing you stress. Plus, “most of the time when I use this technique, I end up flipping my frustration into laughter, which is always a great endorphin mood booster!” Miller says. Here are more proven ways to boost your mood.
Exercises improves insulin sensitivity, can help someone become more aware of their hunger levels, improves confidence/self-esteem, and leads to better mental processing and a lower risk for depression. (2) Can’t sleep? Well, exercise can help with that too, which is very important considering quality sleep is needed to regulate hormones and help the body recover.
Alpha (12hz – 8hz) – Awake, but deeply relaxed. Simply closing your eyes will produce alpha brainwaves. This category is associated with daydreaming, visualization, imagination, light meditation. Brainwave expert Anna Wise called the alpha range the bridge between beta and theta. (More information can be found in Wise’ book The High-Performance Mind)
Hi EJ, at the moment, there hasn’t been any research to give an indication of how long you should or shouldn’t listen for. Over time, I’ve seen people use my tracks for longer and longer. I started off providing 30-minute study tracks, but through demand, I extended them to 3-hours. I know from the many thousands of comments I’ve had on YouTube that a large number of people play those 3-hour tracks on repeat, or listen to different ones, one after the other throughout the day. I’ve also seen apps where you can play tracks like mine on continuous repeat. So it’s common for people to listen to them all day while they are studying.
Practitioners are discovering a number of different areas in which entrainment therapy may bring positive benefits. From managing mental health more effectively through to providing increased mental focus and concentration, it is thought the technique can be adapted according to the specific issues being treated. An improved immune system, enhanced levels of pain management, and a reduction in autoimmune disorders are also thought to be achieved through the therapy, leading many individuals with chronic ill health to consider brainwave entrainment as a non-invasive yet effective therapy.
Other entrainment methods sometimes used include autopan modulation that moves sound in an 180º arc to create a desired tone. Harmonic box entrainment, invented by James Mann, uses a layering of binaural and monaural tones that alternate between ears, requiring headphones. Sound modulation and filtering, amplitude modulation, and pitch panning use diverse sounds to create rhythmic pulses matched to the desired brainwave frequency.
There are many advantages and disadvantages with binaural beats. One of the major advantages is hemispheric synchronization. Since both hemispheres are required to create the beat within the brain, this method is an excellent way to create greater harmony between areas of the mind typically functioning independently. Binaural beats are also known to have effective hypnotic and relaxing effects.
There’s a growing body of research suggesting that binaural beats can reduce different forms of anxiety, from mild to chronic. One especially interesting study looked at the effects of binaural beats on anxiety among patients preparing to undergo surgery—a life circumstance that is pretty anxiety provoking for most anyone. Over a period of six months, patients spent 30 minutes on the day of their surgery listening to binaural beats. Compared to patients who listened to a soundtrack that did not include binaural beats—and patients who received no “beats” therapy at all—the binaural beat listeners experienced significantly greater reductions in their anxiety levels.
Alpha: Alpha brainwave patterns are associated with a state of wakeful relaxation. Slower and lower in frequency (between 9-14 hertz), alpha waves are dominant when we’re calm and relaxed, but still alert. Alpha waves are associated with states of meditation (your yoga class probably puts you in an alpha state), and also with our ability to be creative.
When explaining this to others they frequently respond with something like, “But I had no expectation or even any idea that my face might experience flushing. I didn’t even know that was possible. Now every time I listen to a particular entrainment track that specific face flushing occurs. If it is a specific phenomena, and it only happens when I use one certain entrainment track, doesn’t that prove it is the entrainment causing it?”
Controlled or pre/post studies of the effects of BWE using auditory or visual stimulation were eligible for inclusion, provided pulses of light or tone were delivered at frequencies hypothesised to have a beneficial effect or in line with a protocol addressing clinical outcomes. Studies were required to report clinical or psychological outcomes (measured using standard methods or as deemed appropriate by peer review) and to report statistical analysis. Studies of outcomes such as electroencephalogram (EEG) response or neurotransmitter levels were not eligible. Case studies were excluded.