When looking to reduce our stress and anxiety levels it can be useful to understand how your brain wave frequency actually contributes to your state of your mind. While most of us focus on looking at our emotions in an attempt to become happier, more spiritual beings, our brain waves and our subconscious mind also play a key part in our quest for fulfilment and over all well being.
By learning about the deeper states of our mind, we are better able to appreciate where we are in life, what’s blocking us from happiness and open our more creative side, so we can live the life we want. But the first step is understanding your different brain frequencies.
Our brain is made up of billions of cells called neurons that communicate with each other via electrical signals. This communication is the origin of all your thoughts, emotions and behaviours. And it happens at some level whether you’re wide awake, resting or sleeping.
The five states of the brain (Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta and Gamma), are frequencies which are measured in cycles per second (Hz).
Each stage has its own set of characteristics representing a specific level of brain activity and a unique state of consciousness.
1. Beta (14-40Hz) — The Waking Consciousness & Reasoning Wave
Beta brain waves are associated with normal waking consciousness and a heightened state of alertness, logic and critical reasoning.
While Beta brain waves are important for effective functioning throughout the day, they also can translate into stress, anxiety and restlessness. For the majority of the people I work with this state is over active, and you might recognise it as overthinking.
The voice of Beta can be described as being that nagging little inner critic that gets louder the higher you go into range. Therefore, with a majority of adults operate at Beta; it’s little surprise that stress is today’s most common health problem.
2. Alpha (7.5-14Hz) — The Deep Relaxation Wave
Alpha brain waves are present in light relaxation and usually when the eyes are closed, it might be when you’re slipping into a lovely daydream or during light meditation. (some scientists also claim aerobic exercise helps create alpha waves). It is the best time to plan the mind for happiness or success using Affirmations and this brain state also improves your imagination, visualization, memory, learning and concentration.
This of it as the path to your subconscious mind and lies at the base of your conscious awareness. In my opinion this is the optimal state for the brain to be awake and relaxed, which is incredibly important for those looking to reduce their stress levels.
The voice of Alpha is your intuition or gut feeling, which becomes clearer and more profound the closer you get to 7.5Hz.
3. Theta (4-7.5Hz) — The Meditation & Sleeping Wave
Theta brain waves are present during deep meditation and light sleep, including the all-important REM dream state. It is the realm of your subconsciousness and only experienced momentarily as you drift off to sleep from Alpha and wake from deep sleep (from Delta).
It is said that a sense of deep spiritual connection and unity with the universe can be experienced at Theta.
Your mind’s most deep-seated patterns of behaviour are at Theta and it is where you experience vivid visualizations, great inspiration, profound creativity and exceptional insight. Unlike your other brain waves, the elusive voice of Theta is a silent voice.
It is at the Alpha-Theta border, from 7Hz to 8Hz, where the best opportunity for visualization, new ideas can begin, and is definitely using the creative power of your mind to be positive. It’s the mental state which you consciously create your reality. At this frequency, you may be still conscious of your surroundings however your body is in deep relaxation.
4. Delta (0.5-4Hz) — The Deep Sleep Wave
The Delta frequency is the slowest of the frequencies and is experienced in deep, dreamless sleep and in very deep, transcendental meditation or hypnosis where awareness is fully detached.
Delta is the realm of your unconscious mind, where our subconscious thoughts, patterns and behaviours link to, and whilst the brain is in this state there is an opportunity to think and feel differently.
Among many things, deep sleep is important for the healing process — as it’s linked with deep healing and regeneration. Hence, not having enough deep sleep is damaging to your health in more ways than one.
5. Gamma (above 40Hz) – The Insight Wave
This range is the most recently discovered and is the fastest frequency at above 40Hz. While little is known about this state of mind, initial research shows Gamma waves are associated with bursts of insight and high-level information processing.
So why is it important to understand the brainwaves, and what can I do? Consider this for a moment, if you’re spending each day in the Beta state of mind, which is linked closely to stress, this becomes the main frequency for the brain, and your brain and body begins to accept this is normal.
And whilst to some degree it may be helpful, (keeping you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpening your concentration, or pushing you to get things done), beyond a certain point, this Beta/stress state stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships and your quality of life.
Stress is like a switch, the longer it’s on, the harder it is to switch off!
Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
The best way to change this, it re teach your brain what it’s like in Alpha and Theta states.
Actively doing something that allows your brain to move into a different state, can also be considered an act of self care.
The best way to teach your mind to re connect with Alpha or Theta states is Meditation which increases activity in the left prefrontal cortex. These positive changes are stable over time, so even if you stop meditating for a while, the effect lingers.
Meditating is retraining your mind and body to be more relaxed, so you can solve problems and dilemmas easily and in turn think clearer, without over thinking and analyzing. Whilst your brain is in alpha state, it is more creative and more relaxed, which benefits your immune system too, giving it a boost. The Alpha rhythms brainwave is said to help enhance your mood, making it easier to have positive thoughts.
If you are one of the many people, living each day in a highly stressful environment - it’s possible you are moving between awake & stressed (Beta State) and fully asleep (Delta state). And your mind is missing out on all the benefits that can be gained from being relaxed yet awake!
Likewise, there are those who find no matter how much they sleep, they never feel refreshed, and this is likely because they don’t “drift” to sleep, but in fact “pass out” to sleep, from exhaustion – again missing the range of brain waves in between.
Those who struggle to stay awake in Meditation, follow this pattern too. Because the mind is used to dropping between Beta and Delta it doesn’t yet know how be awake and relaxed at the same time, missing the important Alpha and Theta stage of relaxation.
For those struggling with night terrors, allowing the brain an opportunity to relax naturally moving through all stages of the relaxation process is essential.
Typically, night terror occurs very suddenly early in the sleep period (approximately 40 mins after starting to sleep), and can be heightened during times of stress. This is often because the brain is not transitioning smoothly between sleep states, therefor making sure you have a real wind down time before sleeping will help reduce night terrors for both children and adults.
So if you want to become more relaxed and calm, it’s important to allow your brain time in the alpha and theta states. So what can you do? Not everyone wants to sit still or meditate, so the good news is there are lots of things that can be beneficial. So finish up here is a list to get you thinking!
Learn to meditate
Many experts advice practicing meditation daily can help boost alpha activity in the brain, and it’s definitely about the consistency of Meditation, not the duration. 2 mins a day, is better than 20 minutes a month.
Close your eyes
Each time you close your eyes – especially when you’re doing some visualisation – your brain produces higher levels of alpha waves. Visualisation may take some practice, but that’s ok!
Practice deep breathing
Deep breathing exercises can also boost your alpha waves. Try sitting comfortably, and breathe in gently through your nose and out through your mouth slowly, and always focus your awareness on the exhale (like blowing away a very soft dandelion for as long as you can).
Have a relaxing bath
If you can close your eyes and switch off while soaking in the tub, you know what it’s like to generate alpha waves.
Try some yoga or gentle walking
… or indeed any activity that relaxes you, such as listening to soothing music, painting, drawing (try adult colouring books if you’re not a natural artist) or having a massage.
If you've not realised the huge links with nature and reduced stress levels I highly advise reading our Blog The Natural Healer for more information on how our mind and body responds to a natural environment.
If you’re finding it hard to cope with stress remember you can try some of our free guided meditations and hypnotherapy tracks online, and you can get a free full body relaxation audio when you join the monthly Newsletter.