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 brainwaves are further divided into three bands; Lo-Beta (Beta1, 12-15Hz) can be thought of as a 'fast idle', or musing. Beta (Beta2, 15-22Hz) is high engagement or actively figuring something out. Hi-Beta (Beta3, 22-38Hz) is highly complex thought, integrating new experiences, high anxiety, or excitement. Continual high frequency processing is not a very efficient way to run the brain, as it takes a tremendous amount of energy.
And so we (not too surprisingly) begin to experience “symptoms” or “signs” of something that we do not ordinarily experience. Immediately, we associate these with the entrainment or the meditation. We wonder if this is something real or imagined so we often start asking others if they have experienced the same or similar things. We seek validation that our practices are producing tangible effects on us.
Literally embrace whatever it is you're going through and then let it go. Try doing a tai chi exercise known as "embracing the tiger," where you take your arms, spread them wide, put your hands together and then draw them—and everything around you—toward your navel, the center of your being. Doing this allows you to take the good with the bad. Then reverse your hands and push them out, releasing your tension. When you can control stress, it can no longer control you. (Follow it with this progressive muscle relaxation technique to reduce stress.)
A 2008 study at Hofstra University played two different binaural beats and a control sound (a babbling brook) to patients with high blood pressure. There was no difference between the groups. In one small study from Japan that was published in the Journal of Neurophysiology in 2006, they played various binaural beats to nine subjects, and observed the resulting EEGs. They found great variability in the results. Their conclusion was that listening to binaural beats can produce activity on the human cerebral cortex, however the cause was more likely a conscious auditory reaction and was not correlated to the frequency of the binaural beat. However, a 2005 study published in Clinical Neurophysiology found that they were able to induce a desired frequency in the EEG matching the phantom beat frequency encoded in a binaural beat, however this was with a single subject and was neither blinded nor controlled.
There are many ways to reduce tension and relax, but some are more effective than others. Some techniques are difficult to learn while others are challenging to practice. Others have negative consequences that almost outweigh their effectiveness or can create bigger problems. Here are ten stress relievers proven to be among the most effective for the amount of work and time involved. Most can be learned in the time it takes to read this page and will help you to feel more relaxed almost immediately. And even more exciting, the stress relief benefits will increase with regular practice. Try as many as you can—there's something here for everyone.
American Heart Association: "Four Ways to Deal With Stress."; PubMed Central: "Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin."; NIH News in Health: "Can Pets Keep You Healthy?"; Cleveland Clinic: "Want a Healthy Heart? Laugh More!"; HelpGuide.org: "Laughter Is the Best Medicine."; Association for Psychological Science: "Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal; Displays Affect Neuroendocrine; Levels and Risk Tolerance."; Harvard Business School: "Power Posing: Fake It Until you Make It."; IZA.org: "The Effect of Sexual Activity on Wages."
Known as audio-visual brainwave entrainment, or AVE, this method involves the simultaneous flashing of light and audible, rhythmic tones using specialized equipment such as the Mind Machine. Also known as the Dream Machine or psycho-Walkman, this lightweight headset lets you experience a wide selection of audio and visual entrainment tracks while having complete mobility.
Another consideration of stress is whether it is acute or chronic. “Acute stress” is what an individual experiences at the time the stressor is encountered (4). The stress response is activated, and the body returns to homeostasis once the challenge of the stressor is removed or the person successfully manages the situation. For example, an individual on the way to an important meeting gets into a traffic jam and realizes she is going to be late; the stress response starts. When she calls her boss and learns that she can conference into the meeting while on the road, the stress response subsides with the resolution of the situation. When an individual experiences acute stress on a consistent basis, such as with overcommitting at work or constant worrying, it is referred to as “acute episodic stress” (4). Individuals who experience acute episodic stress often show signs and symptoms of stress (Table 1) that can negatively impact physical and psychological health. These individuals can learn how to change behaviors and manage their stress to prevent these consequences.
While visual entrainment is more powerful than audio alone for inducing desired brainwave states, more caution is needed when using visual methods. Between 0.3 and 3 percent of the population is susceptible to having seizures from flickering light stimulation, and for other people, flickering visual stimuli simply makes them uncomfortable. People with epilepsy have a greater chance of having a seizure from exposure to flickering light stimulation.
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.
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.
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.
The composer Alvin Lucier has written many pieces that feature interference beats as their main focus. Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi, whose style is grounded on microtonal oscillations of unisons, extensively explored the textural effects of interference beats, particularly in his late works such as the violin solos Xnoybis (1964) and L'âme ailée / L'âme ouverte (1973), which feature them prominently (note that Scelsi treated and notated each string of the instrument as a separate part, so that his violin solos are effectively quartets of one-strings, where different strings of the violin may be simultaneously playing the same note with microtonal shifts, so that the interference patterns are generated). Composer Phill Niblock's music is entirely based on beating caused by microtonal differences.
The various mental states of the individual are thought to take place across a varied range of frequencies, or brainwaves. By encouraging the frequency following process, entrainment is able to create positive change in the brain, through matching carefully-selected frequencies of light and/or sound. The stimulus enables the individual to access a different state of consciousness, which can be useful for a number of benefits including relaxation, anxiety management, stress reduction and more.
The studies included in the recent reviews of Tai Chi and yoga indicate that sessions between 60 and 90 minutes performed 2 to 3 days per week were effective in reducing stress and improving feelings of well-being (7,14,17). A study conducted in a worksite environment showed that 15 minutes of chair-based yoga postures was effective in reducing acute stress when assessed by self-report and with physiological measures (e.g., respiration rate and heart rate variability parameters). This finding indicates that shorter duration sessions can be effective in reducing acute stress with this type of exercise (15).
Group exercise or encouraging stressed clients to find a workout partner is an excellent idea because it can provide a support network and accountability. However, there might be clients who find a group setting intimidating or competitive, which could be counterproductive in managing stress. In addition, those who report stress because of work or family obligations might enjoy the solitude of exercising alone. Using a variety of exercises or nontraditional exercises (e.g., exergaming, dance classes, yard work, or rock climbing) is a way to plan activities that are enjoyable to maximize adherence. Knowing your clients’ exercise barriers and stressors will help with planning an exercise program that can address these variables to maximize the benefits for health and stress management.
Studies have shown binaural beats may affect levels of dopamine, a hormone that plays a broad role in cognition and a particular role in creative thinking. This has scientists examining the possibility that binaural beats can be used to stimulate creativity. (If you’re looking to be more creative and innovative in your thinking, keep in mind that sleep itself is a powerful tool!)
It might seem obvious that you’d know when you’re stressed, but many of us spend so much time in a frazzled state that we’ve forgotten what it feels like when our nervous systems are in balance: when we’re calm yet still alert and focused. If this is you, you can recognize when you’re stressed by listening to your body. When you’re tired, your eyes feel heavy and you might rest your head on your hand. When you’re happy, you laugh easily. And when you’re stressed, your body lets you know that, too. Get in the habit of paying attention to your body’s clues.
As to the second question raised in the above paragraph, audio with embedded binaural beats alters the electrochemical environment of the brain. This allows mind-consciousness to have different experiences. When the brain is entrained to lower frequencies and awareness is maintained, a unique state of consciousness emerges. This state is often referred to as hypnogogia "mind awake/body asleep."
Changes in neural oscillations, demonstrable through electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements, are precipitated by listening to music, which can modulate autonomic arousal ergotropically and trophotropically, increasing and decreasing arousal respectively. Musical auditory stimulation has also been demonstrated to improve immune function, facilitate relaxation, improve mood, and contribute to the alleviation of stress. These findings have contributed to the development of neurologic music therapy, which uses music and song as an active and receptive intervention, to contribute to the treatment and management of disorders characterized by impairment to parts of the brain and central nervous system, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer's disease, and autism.