In addition to its calming physical effects, the relaxation response also increases energy and focus, combats illness, relieves aches and pains, heightens problem-solving abilities, and boosts motivation and productivity. Best of all, anyone can reap these benefits with regular practice. And while you may choose to pay for a professional massage or acupuncture session, for example, most relaxation techniques can be done on your own or with the aid of free audio downloads or inexpensive smartphone apps.
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.
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.
What are some common experiences or thought patterns that can cause the body to feel stress, including some that you might never have associated with stress before? Things like financial pressure, a lack of sleep, emotional problems in your relationships, overtraining or doing too much exercise, and even dieting can all send signals to the body that it’s under stress.
Any other things help you relieve stress? “Yoga is something I always return to. I find there is something about just reconnecting to my breath and surveying my body that allows me to be very honest about how well I am managing to maintain a sense of peace regardless of the chaos around me. On a daily basis, I find cooking to be a wonderful, sensory-rich, hands-on way to unwind from a busy day.”
You may have experienced Theta right before drifting off to sleep, during a lucid dream, or during a deep meditation. In Theta, you no longer sense the outside world, but you are aware and conscious of your internal world. All of your subconscious fears, hopes and judgments are hidden in the Theta state. Theta is a difficult state to achieve because you often drift out of it very quickly either becoming conscious in Alpha or moving on to the next deeper state. By staying in Theta, you can learn endless information about yourself and your consciousness.
Stress is a significant individual and public health problem that is associated with numerous physical and mental health concerns. It is estimated that between 75% and 90% of primary care physician visits are caused by stress-related illnesses (2). Cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, immune system suppression, headaches, back and neck pain, and sleep problems are some of the health problems associated with stress (4,8). These conditions are some of the most burdensome health problems in the United States based on health care costs, the number of people affected, and the impact on individual lives. Extreme levels of stress were reported by 22% of respondents from the 2011 Stress in America™ survey, and 39% reported that their level of stress had increased during the past year (3). More than 80% of the survey respondents at the WorldatWork Conference in 2012 reported that stress moderately or significantly contributed to their health care costs (6).
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.
You know how movie characters always look themselves in the restroom mirror when faced with a tough situation? Well, giving yourself a quick pep talk in the looking glass can actually help relieve stress. “‘Mirror work‘ is done by looking in a mirror and vocally speaking positive affirmations to yourself with affectionate conviction, to release worry or to improve your self-confidence,” Whitaker says. To relieve stress in the moment, she suggests using a restroom mirror, your car’s rear-view mirror, or even a compact. “Calm your mind by saying encouraging affirmations aloud to yourself, such as, ‘I am excellent at what I do,’ ‘I’ve got this! I am amazing,’ ‘I am an asset to this company,’ or ‘I am awesome!’” she says.
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.
With its focus on full, cleansing breaths, deep breathing is a simple yet powerful relaxation technique. It’s easy to learn, can be practiced almost anywhere, and provides a quick way to get your stress levels in check. Deep breathing is the cornerstone of many other relaxation practices, too, and can be combined with other relaxing elements such as aromatherapy and music. While apps and audio downloads can guide you through the process, all you really need is a few minutes and a place to stretch out.
The Neuro Programmer website, as is typical, is full of testimonials and vague references to research. I tried to track down the research they referenced, but could not find anything published or peer-reviewed by the authors named or on the subjects indicated. For example, they cite one study by Thomas Budzynski, but the only thing published by him that is listed on Pub Med is a small study on biofeedback published in 1969. The 1999 study they reference is not listed. Also – Budzynski has connections to another company – Theta Technologies – which sells similar technology. (The exact nature of his connection is not clear, he was at least a consultant. He is also listed as the director of research for another company, Synchromed, LLC.) This looks like just another in-house worthless study to support the marketing of a product.
Isochronic tones are the newest technological advancement in the field of brainwave entrainment. Isochronic tones are regular beats of a single tone. In fact, an isochronic tone is a tone that is being turned on and off rapidly at regular intervals, creating sharp and distinctive pulses of sound. This effect called “Amplitude Entrainment” tends to excite the thalamus and causes the brain to generate the same brainwave frequency (“frequency following response”) as the tone. The thalamus, vital structure lying deep within the brain, has multiple important functions: it is involved in sensory and motor signal relay, and the regulation of consciousness and sleep. Therefore, the use of isochronic tones is a very effective way to induce a desired brainwave state.
Most wisdom traditions have employed methods that allow the subjects' brain waves to slow down such as meditation, [Hindu] kirtan, [Gregorian, Menzuma or Sufi] chanting, Hebrew davening, Native American drum circles and rain chants, Tibetan prayer bowls, and whirling dervishes and African trance dancing. The rhythm of these wisdom tradition technologies actually slows people's brain waves from their normal busy brain frequency we call Beta (13-30 cycles per second or Hz), to Alpha (8-13Hz) -- meditation, Theta (4-8Hz) -- deep relaxation and dreaming, and Delta (.5-4Hz) -- slow wave or dreamless sleep.
Binaural-beat perception originates in the inferior colliculus of the midbrain and the superior olivary complex of the brainstem, where auditory signals from each ear are integrated and precipitate electrical impulses along neural pathways through the reticular formation up the midbrain to the thalamus, auditory cortex, and other cortical regions.
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.
Well, except for one reason: The power of suggestion. If I give you a music track and tell you that it will cure your headache, you're more likely to report that it cured your headache than you are to say "Well it didn't effect my headache, but it made my short-term memory better." An interesting experiment would be to buy a binaural track claimed to induce drunkenness, for example; play it for five friends without telling them the claim, and then ask how it made each of them feel. Give them multiple choices to select from. Chances are they're going to respond all over the map. If you have a friend who is a believer in binaural beats, I suggest going ahead and setting up this little test.
Escape from a stressful situation by remembering a favorite vacation spot or a place where you feel cozy and at home. “Make sure to take note of every detail of your favorite spot—the more detailed your visualization, the more stress gets kicked to the curb,” Dr. Serani says. “For me, it’s a beautiful spot on the beach in my native Long Island. But it’s not just the white velvet sand of the beach or the teal blue ocean water; it’s the sounds of the surf, the tang of the salt water, the feel of the sun, the waves in the distance, and the imagined walk I take along the water.” You can combine this with a three-word mantra like “blue-ocean-water,” Serani suggests. Miller calls the visualization of a memory that evokes a positive association an “anchor.” She remembers watching beautiful sunsets in Costa Rica. “Now that I am back in the hustle and bustle of life, I will often pause and take mini-retreats, bringing up the anchored experience of inner calm that I felt watching the sunsets,” she says.
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.