Dealing with sudden stress—a phone call with bad news, a last-minute assignment from your boss, or an argument with your spouse—triggers a cascade of physical and mental symptoms that can be hard to stop. The first thing to do? Pay attention to your breathing pattern, and make an effort to start taking slow, deep breaths as stress relievers. “Breathing can change how we feel because emotions and breathing are closely connected,” says Emma Seppala, PhD, author of The Happiness Track and a Stanford University psychologist who’s done research on yogic breathing. “A revealing research study showed that different emotional states are associated with distinct respiration patterns.” In a follow-up study, participants actually started to feel the emotions that corresponded to an assigned breathing pattern. “This finding is revolutionary: We can change how we feel using our breath!” Dr. Seppala says. Deep breathing gets more oxygen to your brain and may lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Because the mind and body are a single system, changing our brainwaves and spending more time in harmonious, relaxed, and restorative mind-states also affects our physical health. Physical health then reinforces our mental-state, and a feedback loop of either positive or negative processes becomes established. Research studies have shown beneficial effects of using brainwave entrainment for treating migraine headaches, premenstrual syndrome, and for managing physical pain.
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.
A potential and generally desired result of brainwave entrainment is hemispheric synchronization. It refers to a state when the brainwave pattern of the right and left hemispheres become alike. It is said that a person with similar activity in both hemispheres tend to be happier, more optimistic and more emotionally stable and less prone to mental illness. Studies found that increased levels of synchronization are found naturally in people who meditate regularly and people who are very happy with their lives in general.
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.