We tend to think of the business of day to day life in simple terms. We sleep, wake up, eat, go to work or school, exercise, and maybe get stressed out here and there. All of this can be approached in a perhaps more useful way – by looking at all of life as brainwaves.
We usually tend to think of the business of day to day life in simple terms. We sleep, wake up, eat, go to work or school, exercise, and maybe get stressed out here and there. For some, high states of anxiety develop at times, but we don’t fully understand their roots or how to deal with them. Prescriptions, meditation, alcohol and cannabis become common treatments. But all this can be approached in a different, perhaps more useful way – by looking at all of life as brainwaves.
You’ve probably heard all about how hormone levels fluctuate throughout the day, including both acute spikes and a general rollercoaster-like waxing and waning from morning to evening. For example, cortisol:
Hormone levels change depending on age, stress, disease and various different factors, including diet of course. So much so, that it is, quite rightfully, an area much studied. But some are beginning to vastly oversimplify our moods as being little more than cause-and-effect of having too much of this, or too little of that, and believe that through performing chemistry experiments on ourselves we can normalize mood and maximize everything from health to brain power.
This thinking extends to food quite often: To see what I mean, try this google search:
Did you know our brainwaves do the same thing? Like hormones, they fluctuate throughout a day, but they tell us slightly different things. They tell us whether we’re anxious or relaxed, but also whether we are focused, whether our motor cortex is engaged, and all kinds of other handy tidbits. And unlike hormones, simple consumer devices already exist for showing this data to you and I, whenever we want. They’re at a rudimentary stage, but will continue to improve.
Brainwaves have potential to teach us so much, and yet are quite a nascent field of study. Word of their relevance and power is only just beginning to trickle down into the mainstream, as studies are done on monks etc, but in general, the problem with brainwaves has traditionally been that much like ghosts or radiation, we don’t usually have any reliable way of measuring that they are there and in what amounts. And so we treat them like they don’t exist at all, or are not relevant. We don’t think about them much. Not that the average person has a reliable way of measuring their serotonin, melatonin or testosterone levels either, but it comes up much more with doctors, and there is much more medical data available in this area. You can see how hormones and chemicals have entered the common consciousness, and the same will likely be true of brainwaves in the near future, and other expressions of invisible waves in various areas of science.
TRANSFORMING THE WAY WE THINK OF INVISIBLE FREQUENCIES
Frequencies are today the domain of ghost hunters who want to prove that a “presence” is near for the purpose of a theater production or their own delusion. They’re the domain of new age guru types, who push binaural beats and 528hz meditation cds. But – they’re also the domain of many well established disciplines and sciences, such as audio engineering and electroencephalography. The average person not in these fields does not have much grounds to relate to how they affect our lives, or how to understand them.
After 20 years in audio production, I am very interested in exploring their potential in other areas than music. I’ve already used frequencies in the past to explain an emerging Tinnitus therapy, even going so far as to develop my own method people could test at home, with surprising success. People from all over have let me know it has helped them to achieve relief from their symptoms, including session musicians for well known artists. I’m not going to be able to unravel the entire yarn ball of brainwaves in one post, especially since I have much to learn still myself.
By creating a more concise introduction here, we can have a useful groundwork laid from which to expand in future posts, to for example, look at the potential of various home EEG devices such as the MUSE (left), or think about advanced ways to modify the quality of our thoughts, moods and smallest reactions throughout a day.
Below is a useful visualization of brainwaves. Although there are more classifications than this, these are the most commonly associated with different moods and functionality. We experience DELTA when we sleep, THETA when we are meditative and very relaxed, to the point of having the outer world tuned out, ALPHA when we are normally relaxed and our mind is creatively engaged, BETA when we are working on difficult problems or dealing with stress, and GAMMA when we’re very deeply engaged or highly emotional.
You can actually see how the more smooth and relaxed states correlate with the slower, more relaxed waves, and conversely, how jittery & anxious states correlate with the higher Beta and Gamma waves. Is that coincidental, or a natural connection? Anxiety is often expressed physically via high energy, and it seems rather logical that the connection is also seen in the brain.
Gamma is sometimes associated with “expanded consciousness” or higher planes, but this idea is debatable in my view. The fact that it has been measured in meditating monks producing thoughts of love indicates high emotion yes, but “higher planes” and meditative experiences are associated with both Theta and Gamma, and probably Delta as well, so it is not as simple as saying that Gamma is the “enlightenment” zone of the brainwave world. To be frank, it’s my opinion that the nascence of the science enables a lot of people to be “experts” in the field; they get away with a lot of talk that seems to make sense on the surface, in order to sell their products – without having to back it up. People desperate for relief or self-improvement will try anything once.
One of my goals is to sort out what is probable nonsense and what has potential to be scientifically sound. Which isn’t to say that I discount the spiritual, but even the spiritual world must function by some sort of laws, even if they are not yet understood. One reason that people are critical of aspects of meditation is that there is so much stuff out there based on very loose ideas. Like for example, that hearing a frequency will suddenly make your brain change to that frequency. It’s a sort of nice thought, but imagine what that would mean when we listen to pop or rock music? Our thoughts would be in chaos. So, I am going to be as thorough and straightforward as I can, not make huge leaps in logic. If you catch me doing so, feel free to call me out on it. 😉
WHAT CAUSES FREQUENCY SHIFTS IN MY BRAIN?
Let’s talk briefly about why we enter these brainwave states to begin with. A whole lot of it is natural, and is going to happen whether we try or not. In fact, we are almost always fluctuating back and forth across the gamut, from Delta to Gamma, just in very small amounts. If you were to liken the brain to a computer, you might say that the processor throttles up and down depending on whatever particular task or tasks it’s doing at any given time. Like computers, we tend to multitask. Other reasons include unnatural stressors, which we are exposed to more and more of in the information age. We’re expected to multitask more than our biology is really designed to handle. As a result, our computer “crashes” more, one might say, or throws errors in places where it was once able to smoothly process the input. Epigenetics says that our genes are actually altered with stress when taken to extremes, and not necessarily for the better. We often hear that humanity will evolve along with technology, but thusfar at least, this has not usually been shown to be the case.
CAN I INFLUENCE THESE “SHIFTS”?
So that’s all well and good, but what most of us want to know is whether we can bias our brainwaves – can we influence them toward a desired state? Perhaps we wish to have more effective concentration, or, sustain relaxation over a longer period of time and wider range of circumstances. We don’t want that flutter to go off in our chest every time the phone rings because we’ve come to associate it with annoyances and demands. We don’t want to feel panic when we simply catch a glimpse of someone across a room and worry that we’ll need to give them some excuse about this or that. I do believe that biasing our brainwaves is a way that this could be accomplished. And it’s been demonstrated.
Researchers, and by now even home users have used EEGs in combination with a method known as neurofeedback to give stimulus, and in real time receive reward signals when brainwaves successfully enter the desired range. But are there other methods?
DRINK YOUR TEA FOR ALPHA WAVE ACTIVITY
Going back to chemicals for a moment, I mentioned that we are very familiar with the practice of using chemicals and foods to alter our neurotransmitter and hormone levels. Are there foods and chemicals which can influence our brain wave patterns? The answer is yes.
Eight female university students were selected as volunteers. Four of them were ranked to be Grade I (the highest anxiety) and the remaining four, Grade V (the lowest anxiety) in an investigation done by the manifest anxiety scale method. A dose of oral administration of 200 mg of L-theanine dissolved in 100 ml of water resulted in the generation of α-electric waves in the occipital and parietal regions of the brains of the subjects. The emission intensity of α-brain waves (integrated as a function of investigation times and area) was significantly greater in the group of Grade I than that of Grade V. These results indicate the possibility for L-theanine to be applied to foods and beverages as a new type of functional food ingredient for its relaxation effect.
SMELLS LIKE A GOOD STRATEGY
Not only has the effect been shown during oral ingestion, but also simply smelling food! Specifically, the Maillard browning effect between the amino acid glycine and glucose/sugar which happens during baking, also induces alpha brainwaves. Heck, this is the science of why humans love their baking so much! What’s interesting to note is that baking often leads to the formation of carcinogenic acrylamide – but much less so when glycine is added. That leads to interesting questions of its own, but that’s for another time perhaps.
What other ways has it been proven that we can manipulate our own brainwaves? I am going to cover the potential flaws in methods like binaural beat meditation sounds in a future post, as it really needs a lot of preceding explanation. There is a very simple way that most people miss, and even I usually don’t give it the focus that it deserves although I’ve thought about it on many occasions throughout my life, and its one of my favorite tools for creativity:
THE HYPNAGOGIC STATE
Hypnagogia is something just about everyone experiences, but few give any thought to as a tool for training themselves to be more creative and relaxed. Remember when you always used to wake up to a clock radio, and then hit the snooze button to get a few more minutes of shuteye? Or perhaps you let yourself doze off one afternoon while reading or watching tv. In one of those moments you had an epiphany which set you on a positive, inspired, confident and driven course when you awoke. You had the answer to a question which had been nagging at you forever. Well, unwittingly, you were training your brainwaves. That is the power of hypnagogia.
Behind the scenes, what is actually happening is that our brainwaves are ramping up and down, keeping us in a semi-awakened state (theta) for an extended period of time, typically between 5 and 15 minutes. And the more we do it, the better we get at it. The better we get at it, the more effective we become as people. Imagine starting every. day. with a feeling of inspiration and purpose! That sounds like some far fetched self-help scheme, but it’s not…
Some of history’s greatest achievements can be credited to this phenomenon, the best-known example being August Kekulé’s realization that the structure of benzene was a closed ring while half-asleep in front of a fire and seeing molecules forming into snakes, one of which grabbed its tail in its mouth. Many other artists, writers, scientists and inventors — including Beethoven, Richard Wagner, Walter Scott, Salvador Dalí, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Isaac Newton — have credited hypnagogia and related states with enhancing their creativity. A 2001 study by Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett found that, while problems can also be solved in full-blown dreams from later stages of sleep, hypnagogia was especially likely to solve problems which benefit from hallucinatory images being critically examined while still before the eyes. -Wikipedia
The knowledge that there is a physical frequency (not to be confused with wavelength – more on that later) which coincides with feelings of anxiety, fear, focus, and even positive things like love or relaxation, is very powerful indeed. It’s even more powerful to be able to observe it. That’s preferred, but not entirely necessary. I will however be covering those possibilities as well in upcoming posts. They’re pretty fascinating.
For now, perhaps you have some food for thought, and can see new options and tools for personal growth. Or maybe you know all of this already, and are hoping for some juicier stuff in this vein. Well, I’ll definitely give it my best shot. Til next time!
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