The quickest way to relieve stress is to release endorphins through exercise. An easy way to do this is through shaking and dancing, a form of expressive meditation that loosens your joints as well as clears the mind. It’s one of our favorite techniques to teach in conflict and disaster areas, such as Haiti. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, shoulders relaxed, and shake your whole body for a few minutes (we recommend 7-8 minutes). Then, stop for a minute or two and pay attention to your breathing and physical sensations. Finally, turn on fast music – anything that gets you energized, and allow the music to move you. Don’t feel the need to follow any specific dance moves, just do whatever feels good for you in the moment (it might help to close your eyes). Dance for about 5 minutes, or until you feel satisfied.
Today we're going to put on our headphones, kick back in the beanbag, and get mellow to the soothing sounds of the latest digital drug: binaural beats. These computer generated sound files are said to massage your brain and produce all sorts of effects, everything from psychedelic experiences to behavior modification. Let's point our skeptical eye at the science of binaural beats, and especially at some of the claims made for them.
However, very experienced practitioners of meditation are able to enter a Delta state and maintain consciousness at the same time. Yoga nidra or “yogi sleep” is a sleep-like state which yogis report during their meditations. This lucid sleeping state is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness (“super-conscious mind”). In this state, experienced yogis are able to regulate their body temperature and heart rate.
In addition to the exercise prescription, other characteristics of the exercise session (e.g., group vs. individual) and the individual also are important considerations. Because of health consequences associated with stress, high-stress clients are likely to be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular events during exercise. Therefore, using the preexercise screening procedures outlined and endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine is essential (1). Monitoring exercise intensity for those looking to “blow off steam” to reduce stress might be a concern when the client has high blood pressure or other cardiovascular risk factors that further the risk increase for cardiovascular events.
In 1973, biophysicist Dr. Gerald Oster published a famous article in Scientific American titled “Auditory Beats in the Brain”, which found that when two pure tones of varying frequencies were combined, a third rhythmic beat was created which he called binaural or monaural beats. According to Oster, monaural beats occur when two tones are combined and sent through a loudspeaker, while binaural beats occur when stereo headphones are used to deliver each tone separately to each ear. Oster concluded that monaural beats were a more effective form of brainwave entrainment.
These brainwaves are actually a bit of a mystery. They’re the highest frequency you can achieve, but scientists are a little dumbfounded by them. Unlike the next set of brainwaves (Alpha and Beta), Gamma brainwaves don’t’ really translate to feeling active and alert. Rather, what’s been discovered is that in Gamma, neurons are firing so harmoniously, that people often feel like they are having a spiritual experience. This brainwave state has been associated with expanding consciousness and understanding the value of universal love and harmony.
Whenever we become very relaxed and the usual chatter of the mind slows down a little bit, if we remain aware and do not slip into sleep or unconsciousness, we begin to perceive things that we had not noticed before. This is slightly different than the issue of “expectations” discussed previously, although a relationship to them can develop which will be discussed below. These have to do with the fact that in our typical state of consciousness our mind is racing so fast and so loud, and our body is so engaged with activity and physical tension, that we are unaware of some subtle perceptions that are there all the while, but which get buried beneath all the physical and mental noise.
It might surprise you to learn that biological stress is a fairly recent discovery. It wasn't until the late 1950s that endocrinologist Hans Selye first identified and documented stress. Symptoms of stress existed long before Selye, but his discoveries led to new research that has helped millions cope with stress. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 ways to relieve stress.
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.
... One of the possible explanation for insignificant results could be length of exposure to AVS. Our participants were exposed to it for 11 minutes, while some authors (Cruceanu & Rotarescu, 2013) suggest that at least 20 minutes is needed for the positive effects to take place. Furthermore, part of our reserach was also visualization of gymnastic skills, performed after AVS. ...
Delta brainwaves have the slowest frequencies, ranging between 0.1 and 4 hertz, and these are the brainwave states associated with deep sleep, trance states, and unconsciousness. Few people can remain awake during delta brainwaves states, although this state is recorded in awake infants between ages of three months and one year and also in babies just before birth. Delta waves are also linked with increased production of HGH, DHEA, and the neuro-transmitter serotonin.
Acupuncture has increasingly been used to treat many stress-related conditions, including psychiatric disorders, autoimmune or immunological-related diseases, infertility, anxiety, and depression. Researchers have found that acupunture treatments result in changes in the cardiovascular and immune systems, increasing protective T-cell proliferation and helping with cellular immuno-responses. (8)
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.
Binaural beats are the playing of two sine waves of close, but not the same, frequency into different earpieces of a set of headphones. The "beat" is heard as the brain tries to process them as a distinct sound, while taking into account the constructive/destructive interference. It is said to migrate brain waves to be closer to that frequency, like a sort of biological resonance, which is true. Of course the same can be said for listening to relaxing music help you relax, up tempo music to help you feel energetic, etc...
Once you begin to experience the beneficial aspects of brainwave entrainment, you may be tempted to have these tracks playing all the time during your waking and sleeping hours. This is NOT advisable, nor is it necessary. Remember, brainwave entrainment is exercise for your brain so your brain will need to rest and integrate the new changes that your entrainment regime is creating.
... The goal of the study was to observe the effect of exposure to BB on working memory capacity. As suggested by many studies, BBs corresponding to alpha brain waves can positively influence cognitive processing, namely attention, auditory sequential memory, working memory, working memory storage, and reasoning ability (Carter & Russell, 1993;Cruceanu & Rotarescu, 2013;Foster, 1990;Kennerly, 1994;McMurray, 2006). The results show that a BB of the frequency of 9.55 Hz – which is a representation of the alpha frequency range of the brain activity – had a temporary positive effect on working memory capacity in our sample of healthy, adult university students. ...
To get a full answer you should really get in touch with the owner of the app, because it does really depend on how their track is constructed and how they intend it to work. I have one 50-minute sleep track which takes you down into delta (http://www.mindamend.com/shop/sleeping-and-dreaming/sleep-induction-isochronic-tones/) and that is designed to just get you to sleep, so you just let play until the end. If you played that track on repeat it might make you jump and wake you up, as the track begins at a higher frequency. I have another 8-hour sleep track which is meant to be played all throughout the night (http://www.mindamend.com/shop/sleeping-and-dreaming/deep-sleep-8-hour-sleep-cycle/). So it does depend on the individual track you are using.
With regard to listening without headphones specifically, you might find it irritating if you are someone who suffers from motion sickness, depending on how the track is created. If you were listening to binaural beats, they really need headphones to work properly. If you are in a room and closer to one speaker you may not even hear binaural beats properly, and if sitting off centre in the room generally, that may have unsettled you if you have motion sickness as the tones try to form a beat in your head. If it was just a standard isochronic tones theta track that shouldn’t be irritating if you have motion sickness.
You may not always be in the mood for meditation when your thoughts are racing, though it is a powerhouse of a stress reliever; you may sometimes face relationship stress that isn't as well-managed by breathing exercises (another highly effective stress reliever) as it might be by learning communication techniques. Guided imagery is fantastic for before bedtime while games are an optimal stress reliever to share with friends.
This is probably the most popular choice of frequency. The theta state is a state of tremendous stress relief. The benefits associated with theta level relaxation include improved concentration, reduced hyperactivity and improved memory. While in a state of theta relaxation, one’s blood pressure, breathing and heart rate all slow to a much more restful and healthy level that promotes natural healing. During theta relaxation one may also experience vivid flashes of mental imagery as the mind opens to memories or subconscious information that is not available to the conscious mind during the normal waking state. The theta state is a very deep state of relaxation that is excellent for deep hypnosis and mental programming.
Regarding split hemisphere isochronic tones. Think of this as two separate isochronic tones tracks playing independently of each other, one playing in one ear and the other one in the opposite ear. Better still, imagine someone playing and recording a drum beat at a rate of 5 taps per second (5Hz – 5 cycles per second). Then a separate recording of a drum beat is made at a rate of 10 taps per second (10 Hz). You then make an audio track where the left ear/channel hears the 5 drum beats recording and the right ear/channel hears the 10 beat recording. With headphones on, each ear can only hear each respective drum beat and not the other. So you are hearing two different beat recordings at the same time, but it’s different in each ear. A split hemisphere isochronic tones track works just the same. You hear two beats at the same time, not two tones as with binaural beats that create a single beat, but two different speeds of beats in each ear. This is what enables you to stimulate and influence each side of the brain with a different frequency of beat. Binaural beats can only stimulate and influence a whole brain effect using a single beat.
If you can't spend a full hour in meditation, try the 30 minute Theta Standalone Meditation. This track takes you a little deeper into exploring the Theta frequency than the first Theta track, so it can also be a progression if you have used the first Alpha/Theta combination. If you do have a full hour for Theta, use the 60 minute Theta Standalone meditation.
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.
It takes slightly more time to practice guided imagery, but this is a great way to leave your stress behind for a while and relax your body. Some find it easier to practice than meditation, as it allows more engagement of the conscious mind. You can focus on imagining relaxing environments you would love to visit, or on memories of your "happy place" for when you're stressed. You can play natural sounds in the background as you practice, to promote a more immersive experience.
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.
Some people are more resistant to brainwave entrainment than others and they may need many more sessions for the tones to start taking effect. Experts recommend that you listen to your brainwave entrainment music regularly because the positive impact is cumulative and builds as you listen to it day after day. Once you start feeling the effects, you will want to continue the sessions.
Transparent Corp's Research Area is arguably the most comprehensive resource for collated brainwave entrainment research. Update: the main research area on Transparent Corp's website is currently being updated, so it is offline. However, you can still access their peer-reviewed research paper as a PDF here: “A Comprehensive Review of the Psychological Effects of Brainwave Entrainment“.
A crossover RCT of a single session of theta stimulation in four healthy adults reported no significant improvement in verbal fluency or attention associated with the intervention and a reduction in immediate recall. Controlled comparisons reported significant benefit from the intervention in all three outcomes measured. Six pre/post studies reported significant benefit from the intervention for 19 of 28 cognitive outcomes.