Alpha Brain Waves
Alpha brain waves are awesome. Well, they are definitely better than beta brain waves - particularly when it's time to relax, calm down and chill out after a hard day at work ...
... (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.
Quick Recap: Alpha Brain Waves v Beta Waves
Cue the theme tune from Rocky. It's a show down between these two brain frequency heavyweights.
To recap (in case you're new, 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 13 to 30 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.
Some are cool (i.e. the ability to think and speak and make jokes and be hilarious) whilst others are not so cool (i.e. 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. So cue our own internal Zen Master - the alpha brain waves.
These waves vibrate at a much more manageable 8 to 13 Hz. They are associated with relaxation, meditation and contemplation.
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.
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 took 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.
The Relaxation Response
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) and binaural beats come in. They do the (majority of the) hard work for you.
Using BWE to Experience Alpha Brain Waves
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.
PS - if you'd like to know what this feels like, read the Effects of Binaural Beats or Isochronic Entrainment.
Best Binaural Beats for Alpha Brain Waves
Whilst there is LOADS of choice at places like Unexplainable Store or Ennora, this can get a little confusing for beginners.
If you want to have a shop around and look for yourself, awesome, I'd recommend visiting Unexplainable as it's easy to use, safe, and full of amazing MP3 downloads.
Just click on one of the topics you're interested in when you land at their site (i.e. meditation, creativity, lucid dreaming, astral projection or something else suitably crazy) and then scroll down to choose a download that specifically induces the alpha state. They start at around $10-$15.
Oh - you'll also need to choose between binaural beats, isochronic tones and monaural beats. My favourites are the isochronics (strongest and nicest on the ears).
Here's my top 3 for Alpha Brain Waves:
1) Alpha Music Meditation from Unexplainable Store. Yep, you guessed it, this is a meditation MP3... with music. Boom. This is a nice, simple, gentle (and effective) 20 minute session which is awesome to use morning, noon or night. The perfect choice for beginners, and (like all my recommendations) guaranteed 100% to work every time. Find yourself drifting away with this awesome recording, and start to reap the benefits of your underused alpha brain waves.
2) Jedi Mind Trick from Brain Wave Alchemy. Ok, ok, so it was the name of this one that initially sold me (I'm a geek, after all), so I was thrilled to find out that this is a brilliant little recording, which makes you feel calm yet awesomely alive on the inside. I've just stumbled across this company and I'm really impressed. They don't have a huge choice (good for beginners) yet all this stuff is top quality. Oh, this recording is longer at 30 minutes.
3) Crystal Clear Mind from Ennora. At the time of writing, they have got a massive sale on, with downloads costing $11 (rather than $25). This isn't the only reason to choose Ennora, however - this recording has got a brilliant, soothing soundtrack (Native American flute, apparently), it works, and it certainly gave me the advertised "heightened clarity and insight". 30 minutes long again. Good stuff, perhaps a little more for the girls than the Jedi one above.
OR - for a more detailed look, read my review of the Top 4 Brain Wave Toys
In closing, I hope this article helped you to understand the power of your alpha brain waves, and inspired you to explore them yourself further. Bye!
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