Anyone skeptical or neglectful of actively deepening their state of consciousness, and anyone not sure if it is for them, can be assured by current science that our bodies are hard wired and electro-chemically designed to be at optimum health and wellbeing at specific levels or frequencies of consciousness that can be measured and defined. The good news is, this information and available techniques make it easier and clearer than ever to harmonise mind and body at optimum levels of wellbeing and performance. Qualitative and meaningful aspects of specific conscious states can also connect us to timeless and universal loving awareness.
Our Brain Wave Patterns
Starting with some basics – our brain produces different brainwaves based on our mood and state of mind during the day. They can be measured using an EEG machine.
Narij Naik, M.Pharm in his blog “The Benefits of Getting More Alpha Waves!” (http://yang-sheng.com?p=5123)
spells out a typical day for many people:
“You wake up suddenly out of deep sleep (Delta brainwaves) with a loud alarm. Almost immediately, you feel a sense of stress from the pressure of getting to work on time and facing the day ahead (Beta brainwaves).”
While creative thinking usually occurs in alpha states, beta states are activated by stress-related problem solving and doing tasks you don’t particularly like or do for unpleasant reasons.
“Then, you jumpstart your day by grabbing a caffeine-rich cup of coffee or tea. Caffeine actually suppresses alpha and theta brainwave activity, keeping you in beta for most of the day.
The heavy work load, constant stimulation of the day job and managing the household, means most people are forced into a beta state from the time they wake up in the morning right until they get to bed and fall into a deep sleep (Delta brainwaves) exhausted from the day….. So, unfortunately, this unnatural and hectic lifestyle means people are forced from delta into beta, then back into delta with little room for alpha and theta brainwave activity.”
Research has also shown that people with addictions have a relative absence of alpha waves. Beta states are characterised by much inner dialogue that people identify with, much of the content often habitual, repetitive and negative, accumulating into mental and physical disorders.
Naik further explains alpha states: “The Alpha brainwave state is actually considered the brain’s most normal functioning state. But, we seem to spend less and less time functioning in alpha. One consequence of this is the brain actually forgets how to produce alpha waves. This means we tend to feel more stressed and less able to cope with the strain stress induces on your health. So, the result is a greater chance of getting stress-related disorders and diseases. Anxiety and stress have a dramatic impact on lowering the strength of your immune system.
Generating more alpha waves makes you feel less anxious and more relaxed as the harmony between your mind and body is restored. Scientists have shown that highly creativity people like artists, actors and even entrepreneurs tend spend more of their time in alpha brainwave states. This is because creativity requires a surge of alpha brainwave activity.
Alpha states happen whenever you get that “aha” or “eureka” moment of a compelling new idea, which gives you the inspiration necessary to literally create something out of nothing. The brains of creative people tend get a burst of alpha activity when faced with a problem to solve. However, this does not happen for most people who are not creative. So, to become a more effective problem solver and creative thinker, you need to increase your alpha waves.
Scientists have also shown that this surge of alpha activity happens during peak performance. After studying the minds of professional basketball players, they found that an increased alpha brainwave activity occurs usually in the left side of the brain just before making a winning shot. Beginner basketball players on the other hand, did not show any alpha activity. More long-term studies showed that as players improved their game they started to produce more alpha waves, suggesting they are necessary for high-level, peak performance.”
Other associated benefits given by Naik are:
- “Improved Mood and Stability of Emotions – Having more alpha brainwaves usually indicates more positive, stable and balanced emotions. This means you can cope better with stress and keep calm in tough situations. Irritable, anxious and over sensitive people tend to spend most of their time in a beta state, and can usually greatly improve their minds by increasing their alpha brainwaves without resorting to taking drugs, excessive alcohol and other bad habits.
- Performance and Getting In the “Zone” – the alpha brainwave state is associated with “peak performance” and players who get “in the zone” perform best when they have less beta brainwaves interfering with their peak, alpha state of mind. Studies on professional sports players have shown they have a surge in alpha brainwaves in the left side of their brain just before making a successful shot or playing decision. Those who failed tend to have a flood of beta brainwaves in their left side of their brains instead. It has been shown by experiments like these that “over thinking” (beta) or” under thinking” (theta) have a negative effect on game play, but being in an alpha brainwave state is the perfect state for high performance.
- Super learning” and “Genius states” – learning new skills, enhanced memory and genius-like abilities are found in those who spend their time mostly in an alpha brainwave state. This is because the tasks associated with those abilities require less overall effort to accomplish and the ability to retain large amounts of information is enhanced.
- Enhanced Immune System – Long-term stress and tension have a negative impact on your immune system and can even shut it down completely in extreme cases, due to the excessive production of cortisol and adrenaline. When you are in an alpha brainwave state, you are in a relaxed state where your immune system is allowed to work at its best. The “feel good” effect of alpha brainwaves leads to the production of happy and well-functioning cells in your body, which provides a healthy and efficient immune system ready to protect you from any disease.
- levels of “Serotonin” – Serotonin is released more during alpha brainwave states. Serotonin levels are associated with your moods and low serotonin levels are linked to depression and other neurological disorders, such as anxiety and panic attacks.”
I will go further into the happy chemicals of the brain and body in another blog.
Four Ways To Cultivate Alpha Brain Waves
For those who feel somewhat intimidated by meditation, Christopher Bergland in his blog “The Athletes Way” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way) refers to Dan Harris from ABC News who wrote, “10% Happier” a No. 1 New York Times bestseller which demystifies meditation and illustrates why taking a few minutes every day observing your thinking can dramatically improve your life.
Harris strips meditation down to three key points for mindfulness:
- 1. Sit comfortably, with your back upright.
- 2. Focus your full attention on the feeling of your breath coming in and going out.
- 3. Bring your attention back to your breath. You don’t have to clear your mind; getting lost and coming back is the whole game.
2. Yoga and Xigong Saunas
Both of these systems have become very popular and continue to be well studied. Reduction in serum cortisol (related to stress), increase in happy hormones such as dopamine and serotonin are cultivated in these practices and correlated to alpha wave activation.
Bergland also refers to L-Theanine, the amino acid mood enhancer in green tea. “Studies have shown this substance can now be isolated and made into a supplement. It is a great natural booster of your natural alpha brain waves. Users experience a much more focused and alert mind, finding it easier to manage stress and get things done.” L-Theanine boosts natural production of the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter dopamine. Bergland takes L-Theanine and says it is a very effective remedy “for my fairly scattered mind!”
4. Steam Rooms, Massages
These can be effective ways to relax the nervous system and body deeply, activating alpha brain wave production.
Functioning in an awareness of being, as well as doing, characterises alpha states. Two principles in the four examples above for cultivating alpha waves is firstly to have a regular time and place where you can relax fully, be still, peaceful and awake. Secondly, because the mind can only focus fully on one thing at a time then having a single focus like the breath, a mantra or sound, an object to gaze at, or a slow synchronised movement to repeat will displace mental chatter with practice. To get full value, use this time to cut-off from mental and environmental disturbances.
In the next blog I will go into the benefits of alpha states to the immune and endocrine (hormone and neurotransmitter) systems to show how far reaching the benefits are to each and every cell in the body as well as the mind, and how the body literally reflects the ‘tone’ of our mind. Our conscious state is a driver for the mind and body mechanism to function optimally as a self-sustaining or self-perpetual living being and for us to experience qualitative well-being and happiness. We are designed to relax into the ‘I AM’ state where we can better embrace the good and the bad of life and access creative thinking and solutions. An optimised body chemistry balances and adapts better, with every cell receiving and participating in the energy frequency and chemical messages produced.
The whole process of mind/body/soul feedback is self perpetuating as it is health and life affirming when optimised. The pivotal point to optimise this self-sustaining cycle as we deal with the world and life, is mindful awareness. Deepening our wisdom by applying knowledge while also transcending it through awareness of being, nurturing our appreciation of truth, beauty and goodness develop the experiential quality of our conscious state.
As Ram Dass and Ekhart Tolle agree, (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPmgTJGPzlg) loving awareness in the present moment can re-define love as recognising and sensing oneness in another. In alpha and deeper theta states we can get past naming, judgement and narrative of the ego to experience the arising of this love and awareness. Love is not an emotion in its higher sense, but a soul recognition of shared consciousness. Qualitative loving awareness in a predominantly alpha state of consciousness better opens us to realising ‘the one’ in ourselves, thereby in others – the formless in living form. Awakening from the formless, is reflected in the form of body and mind.
Photo credit:NICHD NIH on VisualHunt.com/CC BY