Maximising Your Mental Health Through Alpha Brain Waves
In this blog we explore how to maximising Your Mental Health Through Alpha Brain Waves. If you take a high-level look at the activity in your brain, you’ll find oscillations (or brain waves) bouncing back and forth between large groups of neurons.
These oscillations are how your brain talks to itself, organising regions of the brain responsible for thinking, sensing, and acting. They are scaled from the lowest-level waves, 0.5 cycles per second, known as delta, all the way up to waves of 100 cycles per second, known as gamma.
Interestingly each brain wave frequency relates to our mental energy level – calm, sleepy, relaxed, stressed, anxious, focused, unfocused, depressed. Via help from researchers using EEG machines, we have in fact been able to compare different brain states and dive deeper into understanding how each brain frequency is responsible for how we feel, sense and act.
Slow frequency brain waves = sleepy, relaxed and not focused
High frequency brain waves = more focused attention and problem-solving
Alpha brain waves are around the middle of the spectrum, which occupies the 8 – 12 Hz range. As our daily lives are getting increasingly busier, overstimulated, stressful and anxious, it’s great to know that our mental health can be improved by spending a little more time in an alpha brain state – But why?
What’s So Good About Alpha Waves? –Maximising Your Mental Health Through Alpha Brain Waves
Alpha brain waves = alert yet calm mind.
If we think of modern-day mental health challenges like trauma induced anxiety, stress, depression; overstimulation, lack of focus, racing minds, sleeplessness or insomnia, all can be attributed to an over-activation of a specific brain state.
The beauty of the alpha frequency is that it sits in the middle of the spectrum. You’re not so relaxed that you could go to sleep, but you’re also not too anxious or burdened by thoughts or circumstances. Alpha hits a perfect balance; it’s the sweet spot of healthy brain activity, occupying that space between intently focused and sleepily unaware.
Alpha brain activity is also responsible for our creative inspiration, which is demonstrated via this 1978 study. In addition to boosting creativity, an alpha state of mind is calming and restorative, alleviating symptoms of trauma, major depressive disorder and generalised anxiety disorder.
Access An Alpha Brain Wave State? –Maximising Your Mental Health Through Alpha Brain Waves
Although there are numerous types of meditation, most of them help to ease the mind into a state of calm awareness, which is what an alpha state of mind is all about. Practising meditation, in general, may likely help you generate alpha brain waves, so find a meditation practice that works for you and give it a go.
Flow, In the Zone, Runners High – call it what you will, but there is a spot where you often lose your sense of time, your inner critic goes silent, and your attention is consumed entirely.
Often seen in extreme sports athletes, like skydivers, big wave surfers or a snowboarder, where flow states are needed to stay alive, it is also seen when going for a run, painting, writing an article, or just about anything, provided your skills are stretched to accommodate the activity.
When in flow, your brain is sitting on the boundary between alpha and theta, around 8 Hz.
Light Brainwave Entrainment
Brainwave entrainment is a natural and very gentle process of pushing the brain into a specific brain state. As your brain talks in waves, experiancing light at a specific frequency serves to adjust your brain waves to that specific frequency. It’s called the ‘frequency following response’.
Light brainwave entrainment can induce many brain states, including alpha, where trauma, anxiety and depression symptoms can be targeted. It provides the same benefits of meditation, but on a deeper level, giving you a Buddhist monk scale of meditation benefits without the practice.
Binaural Beats and Isochronic Tones
Binaural beats allow for brainwave entrainment to be delivered using sound rather than light. Binaural beats consist of a music track that predominantly uses two slightly different frequencies to create a beating pattern.
Like binaural beats, isochronic tones are used for brainwave entrainment, but isochronic tones are stuttered, using short bursts of a single tone, repeated quickly enough to form a rhythmic pulse.
Playing these beating tones causes your brainwaves to sync with them through the same entrainment mechanism ‘frequency following’, so the 8 – 12 Hz frequency will help lead you into the alpha state of mind.
Named after Jose Silva, who developed the method back in the 1940s. The Silva method is a mixture of meditation techniques and exercises. This method was specifically designed to help people get into the alpha state, improving their creativity and intuition.
Silva workshops are available to help you master this practice.
Breathing is such an automatic thing, most of the time, we do it without awareness of how fast or slow it is. However, taking a more conscious approach could, at times, be beneficial, as this is, after all, how we supply oxygen to our body.
By controlling our breathing, you can impact both your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Your sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. In reverse, your parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the relaxation response, which kicks in to calm your body after a stressful event. By slowing your breathing, you can promote activity in your parasympathetic nervous system, helping to slow your heart rate and calm your body.
Like many breathing exercises, 4-7-8 breathwork is designed to bring your body and mind into a more relaxed state.
Getting yourself into an alpha state of mind will help you focus, but more importantly, it will help you focus in a more relaxed way. By doing this, it will help promote creativity while decreasing trauma and anxiety symptoms.
Fortunately, you can be proactive in naturally stimulating an alpha state of mind to occur, be that immersing yourself in an activity that promotes flow or creating moments in your day where you can focus on your breathing or meditation. Alternatively, you can engage in brainwave entrainment where any brain state, including alpha, can be