Brain waves are electrical activity patterns caused by the neurons of the brain communicating with each other. Brain waves can be detected using sensitive medical equipment such as an electroencephalogram (EEG) monitor. Brain waves provide an indication of the mental state of an individual. In other words, the appearance of brain waves is directly connected to what a person is doing, thinking or feeling. The different Brain states are: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta. You have your own unique brain wave patterns that function habitually. Some of these brain wave habits are useful, and others need some fine-tuning. When your brain is functioning efficiently, your brain waves are “in sync” with your activity, but stress or lack of sleep can interfere with this natural harmonious relationship. To restore this harmony, at Gaia Meditation, we have developed a wide range of free audio programs, including meditation music, relaxation music, sleep music and plenty other Sound Healing programs.
Entrainment guides our brainwaves into targeted ranges, but they are ranges we go through naturally many times every day. LifeFlow 10, for example, takes the brain to a 10Hz frequency. We experience this same frequency when closing our eyes and taking a deep breath, or when consciously relaxing physical tension in the body, or when we find ourselves lost in a daydream, or when we view a beautiful sunset, or when we find ourselves caught up in an especially peaceful bit of music. If there was a cause-and-effect relationship between these 10Hz brainwaves and our face flushing, then our face should also flush when we enter that daydream, listen to that piece of music, watch that sunset, or close our eyes and relax. The same brainwave patterns are present during all those activities as they are while listening to LF-10. But these other activities don’t bring on the same face flushing.
Social interaction is your body’s most evolved and surefire strategy for regulating the nervous system. Talking face-to-face with a relaxed and caring listener can help you quickly calm down and release tension. Although you can’t always have a pal to lean on in the middle of a stressful situation, maintaining a network of close relationships is vital for your mental health. Between sensory-based stress relief and good listeners, you’ll have your bases covered.
You may recognize the "binaural recording" from ASMR, where the technique is often used. This explains why, if you search for "binaural" on YouTube, you get a mixture of two entirely different kinds of results: binaural beats and binaural ASMR recordings. It gets especially confusing in that there's some questionable and/or unexplored science surrounding each one.
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.
Brainwave entrainment is a method which utilizes frequencies of the brain in order to bring about specific desired thoughts and behavior. In other words, brainwave entrainment is used to induce different brainwave states related to: enhanced focus, relaxation, sleep induction, meditation, etc. With the help of a specific stimulus, aural (audio), photic (visual) or the combination of the two, we naturally induce the brain to respond by synchronizing with the stimulus frequency; this is called the “frequency following response”. The assumption is that the human brain has a tendency to change its dominant Electroencephalography frequency (recording of electrical activity along the scalp) towards the frequency of a dominant external stimulus. This is why we also talk about “brainwave synchronization”.
“…humans have always been intrigued by the possibilities for influencing mental functioning that emerge from combining rhythmic sound and rhythmic light stimulation. Ancient rituals for entering trance states often involved both rhythmic sounds in the form of drum beats, clapping, or chanting and flickering lights produced by candles, torches, bonfires, or long lines of human bodies passing before the fire and chopping the light into mesmerizing rhythmic flashes. From Greek plays to Western opera, our most popular entertainment forms have made use of combinations of lights and sounds. Some composers, such as the visionary Scriabin, actually created music intended to be experienced in combination with rhythmic light displays.”
The phenomena of brainwave entrainment was first described in the scientific literature in 1973 by Gerald Oster in results published in an article in Scientific American entitled, “Auditory Beats in the Brain”. He showed that a specific brainwave could be induced when a person heard two separate, but closely related, sound frequencies, one in each ear. He discovered that when the frequencies heard by each ear differed by about 10 hertz, the brainwave pattern of the person hearing the sound would synchronize to the difference between the two frequencies. For example, if the person heard a 410 hertz sound in one ear and a 400 hertz sound in the other ear, their brainwaves would stabilize at the difference between the two, or 10 hertz. This technique is called binaural beats, and it is a fundamental principle of brainwave entrainment methods.
That said, I use binaural beats and isochronic tones to help me get over some hurdles, or as a pre-game to meditation. It’s far easier to go deep once my mind is operating on a certain frequency, or at least feels like it. It’s also way easier to get to that point than fighting my thoughts at times. Think of binaural beats and isochronic tones as heavy ammunition that you don’t always need, but is great to have in your arsenal when you really need it.
In order to understand brainwave entrainment you first have to understand something about brain waves and electroencephalograms (EEG). Neurons are cells that communicate with each other through electrical conduction. When a neuron fires it creates a small electrical and magnetic field. These fields are far too small to measure by placing electrodes on the scalp, or even on the surface of the brain. The only reason we can detect the electrical fields of the brain is because many neurons are firing together – in synchrony. All brain waves that are measured by an EEG, therefore, represent a large group of neurons firing together.
The mechanism for this is that when your eyes or ears are exposed to a particular frequency of pulses or beats, the thalamus first distributes this information to the entire brain, including the visual and cerebral cortex where neural activity begins to synchronize to the incoming frequency, producing hemispheric synchronization and a balance of brainwave activity across the brain.
A therapy that slows brainwave activity, helping to produce low-frequency waves, is likely to aid relaxation and sleep. But it’s not only lowering brainwave frequency that binaural beats may offer to sleep and relaxation. A small study (19 people) has found that exposure to binaural beats is associated with changes to three hormones important to sleep and well being:
To use your senses to quickly relieve stress, you first need to identify the sensory experiences that work best for you. This can require some experimentation. As you employ different senses, note how quickly your stress levels drop. And be as precise as possible. What is the specific kind of sound or type of movement that affects you the most? For example, if you’re a music lover, listen to many different artists and types of music until you find the song that instantly lifts and relaxes you.
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 brainwave entrainment leaves you with unwanted side-effects (see below) or discomfort, you’re probably encouraging a range of brainwaves that are already excessive in some area of your brain. The way around this is to get a brain map to see what your brain’s strengths and weaknesses are, and see what (if any) brainwaves could use some encouragement.