You might not realize it, but when you’re stressed, every muscle in your body tenses up. Taking a moment to recognize this and actively relaxing each part of your body can help. According to Whitaker, common stress-storing places are the jaw, neck, shoulders, back, and stomach. “The Instant Relaxation Technique is a deliberate tightening of the entire body, starting from the toes to the head region, and letting it go instantly,” Joshi says. “This is an effective way to become self-aware of our muscles and letting go of stress very quickly.” While you do this, picture all the negative emotion and tension leaving your body. Look out for these 8 silent signs stress is actually making you sick.
Brain wave entrainment is a real phenomenon and is useful as one method of investigating how the brain works. But there is no evidence, nor any theoretical basis, for any long lasting effect on brain function or that there is any benefit of any kind. Despite this, there is a huge industry of devices that claim to train your brain waves and have a beneficial effect. I wouldn’t waste a dime on any such device.
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.
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A binaureal beat is created by playing a different tone in each ear, and the interference pattern between the slightly differing frequencies creates the illusion of a beat. It's intended to be heard through headphones, so there's no cross-channel bleed across both ears. Listen to this, I'll play a simple binaural beat, and I'll slide the pan control back and forth from one ear to the other. You can see that there isn't actually any beat, it's just an acoustic illusion:
But the notion of changing brain waves is a very appealing one, from a marketing stand point. People can visualize brain waves and we like synchrony. Also, in the computer age, we understand the notion of “programming.” We also have been prepped for the future by movies such as The Matrix, where people could master Kung Fu in minutes by simply “downloading” the knowledge. This gives the whole notion a superficial plausibility. But the science just isn’t there.
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.
Living in a Mindful Universe relates the emerging view of consciousness that is revolutionizing the scientific community, and is, in many ways, the continuation of Dr. Alexander’s journey since writing Proof of Heaven. This journey parallels an unprecedented shift in the western scientific paradigm that, when fully incorporated, will lead to far more meaning and purpose in our lives.
Sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) is one final type of brainwave that has been studied. SMR, also known as low beta, is a type of brainwave, which occurs in the sensorimotor cortex, in the 12 to 15 hertz range when that area of the sensorimotor cortex is idle and immobile. The purpose of SMR brainwaves is not well understood, but some neurofeedback practitioners report training to increase SMR brainwaves can be beneficial for people with autism, epilepsy, ADD, insomnia, drug addiction, and as an aide to better manage stress.
The idea behind CBT is this: If you can reframe the way you think about events in your life — for example, instead of panicking over a job change you choose to embrace it, prepare as best you can and seize the opportunity to start fresh — you can literally reduce the stress you wind up feeling from the event. CBT is useful for training us to avoid internal causes of stress, such as “all-or-nothing” thinking, jumping to conclusions, pessimism, having unrealistic expectations for ourselves, always expecting the worst-case scenario, and feeling guilt or shame over events that are out of our control. (11)
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.
Yoga involves a series of both moving and stationary poses, combined with deep breathing. As well as reducing anxiety and stress, yoga can also improve flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina. Since injuries can happen when yoga is practiced incorrectly, it’s best to learn by attending group classes, hiring a private teacher, or at least following video instructions. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can practice alone or with others, tailoring your practice as you see fit.
“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.”
Slightly higher-frequency entrainment can lead to hyper suggestive states of consciousness. Still higher-frequency EEG states are associated with alert and focused mental activity needed for the optimal performance of many tasks. Perceived reality changes depending on the state of consciousness of the perceiver (Tart, 1975). Some states of consciousness provide limited views of reality, while others provide an expanded awareness of reality. For the most part, states of consciousness change in response to the ever-changing internal environment and surrounding stimulation. For example, states of consciousness are subject to influences like drugs and circadian and ultradian rhythms (Rossi, 1986; Shannahoff-Khalsa, 1991; Webb & Dube, 1981). Specific states of consciousness can also be learned as adaptive behaviors to demanding circumstances (Green and Green, 1986).
Taking five minutes to reflect on how you pulled through other stressful situations like your last breakup or when you switched jobs can help you reconnect with your resilient side. In the moment, it may feel as though you'll never get over your present problem, but when you look back, you realize that you felt similarly before and found a way to overcome it. If you're going through a divorce or recently lost a loved one, you also may want to seek out a support group: Research on grieving presented by the Center for the Advancement of Health in Washington, D.C., suggests that talking with peers is even more beneficial than one-on-one counseling in the initial months after a loss.
If you’re going to enter a state of meditation, a technique of some sort must be employed that takes you there. (Note – I am fully aware of references to “spontaneous enlightenment experiences”, but these are an entirely different category of phenomena than what is being discussed here and are outside the scope of this discussion. Perhaps another time.)
Most of the tips we’ve suggested provide immediate relief, but there are also many lifestyle changes that can be more effective in the long run. The concept of “mindfulness” is a large part of meditative and somatic approaches to mental health, and has become popular in modern psychotherapy. From yoga and tai chi to meditation and Pilates, these systems of mindfulness incorporate physical and mental exercises that prevent stress from becoming a problem. Try joining a class.
The Frequency following response (FFR), also referred to as Frequency Following Potential (FFP), is a specific response to hearing sound and music, by which neural oscillations adjust their frequency to match the rhythm of auditory stimuli. The use of sound with intent to influence cortical brainwave frequency is called auditory driving, by which frequency of neural oscillation is 'driven' to entrain with that of the rhythm of a sound source.