Your brainwave activity during sleep is largely distinct from your brain activity when you’re awake. (REM sleep is one exception to this—during REM, your brain is active in ways very much like when you’re awake.) During non-REM sleep, the slower, lower frequency theta and delta waves dominate, compared to the alpha and beta waves that are prominent when you’re alert and active.
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Alpha is the resting state for the brain; it is “The Power Of Now”, being here in the present. The Alpha state is the relaxed state of consciousness essential to stress reduction. It is intensely pleasurable: you are awake but relaxed and not processing much information, with a sort of floating feeling. According to Alpha researcher Dr. Joe Kamiya, the Alpha state is “something like letting go of anxieties”.
I have read something different about theta waves and learning languages. A University of Washington study tested students resting brainwave activity before learning French. They found that students with a higher amount beta/gamma and a lower amount of delta/theta activity were better at acquiring a second language. When you are dominant in theta, that is the lowest and most deeply relaxed awakened state you can be in. I think it would be much harder to really concentrate, fully understand and learn new information while in a theta state, so I would personally consider using theta while studying.
Fortunately, the recommendations for exercise in the role of stress management fit with the current health recommendations (12). The proposed physiological adaptations thought to improve the way the body handles stress and recovers from stress can occur with a regular moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise program (12,13,16), such as the recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. If an individual is using exercise as a time-out from stressors, shorter duration activity can serve the purpose, especially when lack of time or fatigue is a concern. Consider an individual who reports significant work-related stress. Breaking the exercise into two 10- to 15-minute sessions, one before work and one at lunch time when possible, can help combat stress throughout the day. Although there is not a lot of research with resistance exercise and stress management, resistance exercise can be used to provide a time-out from one’s stressors. Because resistance training produces different exercise adaptations compared with aerobic exercise, it might not affect the way the body physiologically reacts to stress as aerobic exercise does. However, the acute effect of a time-out to reduce stress can be beneficial. In addition, clients can receive the numerous health benefits associated with resistance training. The resistance exercise prescription for general health benefits of 2 to 3 days of exercise to target all of the major muscle groups performed at a moderate intensity of 8 to 12 repetitions can be recommended.
Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Laughing tricks your nervous system into making you happy. Our suggestion: watch some classic Monty Python skits like “The Ministry of Silly Walks.” Those Brits are so hilarious, you’ll soon be cracking up, rather than cracking up.
But the question is: Does it have a special effect on the brain? A lot of people think so. The basic claim being made for binaural beats is "resonant entrainment". Entrainment, in physics, is when two systems which oscillate at different frequencies independently are brought together, they synchronize with one another, at whatever the combined system's resonant frequency is. Examples of entrainment occur in animals in nature; for example the chirping of crickets or the croaking of frogs. Synchronization of menstrual cycles in women is another example. Even people coming together and dancing with one another is a type of entrainment. The basic claim for binaural beats is that the perceived low-frequency beat will entrain your brain wave pattern, thus forcing your brain into some desired state.
A study by Tina Huang, PhD, and Christine Charyton, published in the September 2008 issue of the journal, Alternative Therapies examined the results of twenty previous studies measuring the effectiveness of brainwave entrainment for improvements in cognitive dysfunction and deficits, stress reduction, pain management, migraine and headache control, pre-menstrual syndrome, and behavioral difficulties, and all showed significant improvement in symptoms using entrainment techniques.
Resonant entrainment of oscillating systems is a well-understood principle within the physical sciences. If a tuning fork designed to produce a frequency of 440 Hz is struck (causing it to oscillate) and then brought into the vicinity of another 440 Hz tuning fork, the second tuning fork will begin to oscillate. The first tuning fork is said to have entrained the second or caused it to resonate. The physics of entrainment apply to bio-systems as well. Of interest here are the electromagnetic brain waves. The electrochemical activity of the brain results in the production of electromagnetic wave forms which can be objectively measured with sensitive equipment. Brain waves change frequencies based on neural activity within the brain. Because neural activity is electrochemical, brain function can be modified through the introduction of specific chemicals (drugs), by altering the brain's electromagnetic environment through induction, or through resonant entrainment techniques.
Joe: The Journey soundscape took a lot of work. I wanted to bring in the very best of what I knew about brainwave entrainment and to make the best brainwave entrainment product—with the best entrainment technology—that I possibly could. So, there are all sorts of things going on in Journey to provide a sound bed to support the experience of expansiveness and also communicate elements of the heart-based work I talked about earlier. (See part I of this interview, A Guide to Transpersonal Meditation.)
In physics, entrainment is the process of two oscillating systems coming to assume the same periodic rhythm, such as is observed when two clocks slowly synchronize their ticking and tick together in harmony after some time. Pendulums also achieve this same synchronicity when swinging in close proximity to one another, a phenomenon first observed and written about in 1665 by Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch scientist.
When we are mentally active various groups of neurons will be firing and the EEG will look like a jumble of different waves at different frequencies. When we are in a relaxed state, however, our brains settle into a steady rhythm – when fully awake this is the alpha rhythm, which as a frequency of 8-12 hz and other recognizable features. When drowsy our brainwaves slow to the theta range, 6-7hz, and when in deep sleep into the delta range, 4-5hz.
Given that brainwaves control and connect such a vast range of human experience from thought to feelings to actions, it is easy to see how the deliberate control of brainwaves can affect mood, behaviors, motivation, and even physical health. Brainwave entrainment is a safe, simple, and scientifically proven method for quickly guiding the brain into a beneficial brainwave frequency to facilitate healthy sleep, lower stress, heal emotional problems, and improve physical health.
We may use the term “to meditate” as a convenience, but always keep in mind, what is really meant is that we enter into a state of meditation. It’s an important point to distinguish because if we get caught in the trap of regarding meditation “as a verb” it leads into all sorts of problems and misunderstandings. If a person incorrectly believes meditation is a verb, they generally also confuse whatever technique they use to arrive at a state of meditation as being meditation in and of itself.
With almost 100 years of research validating the effectiveness of brainwave entrainment, it’s no wonder why it’s used by thousands of people all over the world. What does the future entail in this exciting field? With the adoption of smartphones, virtual and augmented reality, and advancements in technology reducing the cost of EEG and other forms of biofeedback devices, the entrainment possibilities are endless.
The huge problem will all such studies is that there is a clear placebo effect on any kind of mental performance whenever the subject is observed. Do any intervention, then measure performance, and the intervention and measurement are likely to cause an increase in effort and attention which will increase performance. This generic “placebo” effect needs to be factored out of any such study by proper blinding and controls in order for the results to have any meaning at all.
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.
Our everyday, waking brain used for active intelligence operates at approximately 13 hertz, which is in the range of high alpha or low beta frequencies. People who have certain learning disabilities and problems with attention often have low levels of 13 hertz frequency brainwaves in crucial areas of the brain used for sequencing tasks and doing simple math calculations. This is one concrete example of how brainwaves are associated with thinking and behavior. Each identified brainwave frequency has a different effect on a person’s ability to think, act, and feel.
By exposing an individual to repeatedly external stimulus which can be flashing lights and/or recurring sounds, the entrainment process consists in pushing the brain to adjust to match the frequency provided. Unlike other forms of neurotherapy which require the individual to actively respond to stimulus, entrainment creates an immediate neurophysical response which is instinctive and effortless for the person being provided with the light and/or sound combinations. The key outcome of the sensory stimulation is known as the ‘Frequency Following Response’.
Gamma was dismissed as 'spare brain noise' until researchers discovered it was highly active when in states of universal love, altruism, and the ‘higher virtues’. Gamma is also above the frequency of neuronal firing, so how it is generated remains a mystery. It is speculated that gamma rhythms modulate perception and consciousness, and that a greater presence of gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence.