Alpha brain waves are awesome. Well, they are definitely better than Beta brain waves when it comes to focus, getting in the creative zone, relaxation, stress release and a whole lot more.
… (unless you enjoy being wired and thinking a million thoughts per second all day long and then not sleeping as a result, of course
This article will introduce you to Alpha brain waves in all their awesomeness, and show you why you – yes *you* – are probably not spending enough time in the Alpha state.
Luckily, I’ll give you some tips on how to address this too.
To recap (in case you’re new to the site, or haven’t been paying attention) our normal waking brain frequency is Beta.
For those of you who need to know exact numbers, these rapid brain waves vibrate at a frequency of about 14 to 40 Hz(pronounced ‘hertz’). Whilst admittedly not Grand Canyon-esque in its proportions, this is still a wide range – meaning there is scope for all kinds of different experiences in Beta.
Generally we use Beta frequencies for high-level learning and when in the fight or flight response mode.
Some lower frequency aspects of Beta are cool, like the ability to think and speak and make jokes and be hilarious, whilst others are not so cool, like feeling anxious and stressed and and having what wise Zen Masters call the ‘Monkey Mind’…
Sometimes it’s nice to just feel relaxed and chilled, and well, happy and in the Zen zone! So cue our own internal Zen Master – the Alpha State.
Alpha waves vibrate at a much more manageable 8 to 13 Hz. They are generally associated with relaxation and contemplation, but depending on which frequency recording you listen to , Alpha waves can be superb for focusing on work, studying and being creative and artistic.
Alpha brain waves are more rhythmical, and when you are caught up in their midst you are likely to be paying attention to your inner experience, rather than what’s going on around you – the Zen Zone.
Have you ever just stopped to take a minute and felt chilled, relaxed and a bit warm inside? With a little bit of a sense that everything is going to turn out alright in the end?
Or taken some slow, deep breaths whilst sitting quietly and suddenly felt transported to a nicer, more peaceful place? Or taken a solitary walk in a forest or by a lake and just felt … well, nice?
That’s the Alpha state for you, in all its understated awesomeness. Sweet.
This is a pretty cool idea, coined by Dr Herbert Benson from Harvard Medical School. Basically, the wise doctor was looking at top performers to see why they can remain cool as the proverbial cucumber whilst under pressure.
He found that an ability to access the relaxation response – characterised by, you guessed it, Alpha brain waves – was massively beneficial to the body and mind; and not just when under stress, but at any time.
Some of the major benefits, reported in Michael Hutchison’s excellent book Megabrain, include a reduction in heart rate, blood pressure and sweating …
… combined with a greater functioning of the digestion system, deeper relaxation of muscles, and an increase in the percentage of oxygen and blood flowing to the brain.
Sweet. There’s a lot of good stuff right there. It’s basically the opposite to what smoking and booze does to you
Additionally, people who can access this state tend to demonstrate superior performance on both physical and mental tests.
Now, you may be familiar with this relaxation response – also known as the quieting reflex – even if you don’t experience it much yourself.
If you’ve ever watched a cat or dog flit between states of intense mental arousal (playing, fighting, eating) and utter Zen’d chilled-out-ness (look up, stop, lay down, sleep) in about ten seconds flat, you’ve pretty much got the gist of what this powerful state can accomplish.
Us humans seem to have lost the ability to access this state at will.
Some of us try meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga and the like – but, well, that’s a lot of work – and some of us are busier focussing on world domination and other such plans to commit to a daily meditation practice.
Additionally, it’s not easy to just “jump” into the Alpha state.
As binaural beats expert Jim McElwee says: “The Alpha state isn’t easy to just naturally ‘achieve’ out of nowhere, unless you know how to do it consciously. The very act of raising to an Alpha level can take years of study to achieve…”
Well, fear not, my Beta brain wave experiencing chum. This is where Brain Wave Entrainment (BWE) / binaural beats come in. They do the (majority of the) hard work for you.
Simply put, it’s easy for even absolute beginners to access the Alpha state within a few minutes of trying out binaural beats or isochronic tones for the first time.
All you do is choose an appropriate program (see below for my favourites), sit down somewhere comfortable, pop some headphones in, and start to slow your breathing down by taking some deep breaths.
And… er … that’s it.
Because brainwave entrainment works without any conscious effort on your part, you’ll find yourself drifting into a peaceful, calm and relaxed state within just a few minutes. It’s delightfully simple and fun and beneficial.
I make an effort to access my Alpha brain waves at least once a day, which helps me to feel more centred, chilled, confident and less anxious.
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