Put the Beats on Your Brain: Soothing Your Soul
Although they say that music soothes the savage beast, you don’t need to be a savage beast to make the most of the benefits that mood boosting music can offer. You can use music to relax, stay healthier physically, enhance creativity, and more. Download some mind changing mixes.
Music, the vibration of sound, has frequency- just like your brain, which utilizes five major different types of waves. These waves are Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta, and Gamma, and they are measured in hertz. The lower the hertz, the slower the brain activity.
- Beta waves are low frequency, low amplitude waves (12 to 40 cycles a second). These were thought to be the fastest of the five until gamma waves were discovered. (This is why you will hear people say there are only four types of brain waves, when there actually very many.) Beta waves are in use for a large part of the day during our waking hours as we go about our daily lives. Your attention is directed outward. This is considered to be our brain’s “normal state”, which is a state of arousal.
- Alpha waves are a state of non arousal. They are slower, and higher in amplitude (8 to 12 cycles per second). Alpha waves produce a relaxed and calm state, and can occur when you are resting, meditating, or enjoying nature. Research has shown that alpha waves support an ideal state for learning because the brain is alert but relaxed state. In 1929, Hans Berger used an EEG Machine to discover that when a person’s eyes were closed, the brain generated regular waves in the Alpha range; so you can generate an Alpha state just by sitting with your eyes closed! (This can be a helpful way to start meditating, if you are new to meditation and aren’t sure how it’s done.)
- Theta brainwaves have an even greater amplitude and slower frequency than alpha waves (4 and 8 cycles a second). Theta states are occurring when you are visualizing, daydreaming, disengaged from thought, and in a deep state of mental relaxation. This is also deep state of creativity.
- Delta waves are of the greatest amplitude and slowest frequency (1.5 to 4 cycles per second); these are found during sleep.
- Gamma waves are the fastest waves (40hz and higher) and are beginning to be researched more thoroughly. Recent research has shown that when bursts of insight or high-level information processing occur, there are corresponding increases in brain activity that indicate Gamma wave involvement. This is likely because strong gamma waves activate the entire cortex, integrating the different parts of the brain and helping it work together as a whole. Gamma waves have made waves in neuroscience research when studies of the brains of Tibetan Buddhist monks revealed that their brain structure was physically different from the average Westerner; in addition, they performed much higher on tests involving memory, focus, learning, awareness, and attention. Upon further investigation, it was found that they produced more gamma waves before, during, and after meditation than those who did not meditate. Babies, like the Buddhist monks, also produce high levels of gamma waves.
At any one time, your brain is utilizing is multiple different brainwaves simultaneously. The brainwave that is most dominant is the one that governs your “state of mind”. There are no brainwaves that are “better” than another, as we rely on different brainwaves for different activities. The key is to maintain a state of balance and be able to shift states when we need too.
As you progress from Beta waves to Alpha waves, your attention begins to draw inward. The lower you go, the more deeply you are able to direct attention inward. It is at this time that you are able to focus more on your subjective experience and your inner world, activating higher states of consciousness. These higher states of consciousness can allow you to begin regulating bodily functions as an active participant. However, even without conscious effort, brainwave changes affect our body’s functioning even if we are not actively participating in these changes.
When our brainwaves change, bodily functions governed by the autonomic nervous system, like breathing and heart rate, can be changed too, activating a physical relaxation response. This physical relaxation response can in turn elicit more relaxed brainwaves and stave off feelings of depression and anxiety. It can also boost our moods, enhance our creativity and problem solving skills, boost our immune system’s functioning, ease muscle tension, offer relief from stress, regulate the production of stress hormones, enhance dopamine production, and create ideal states to support learning.
Through a process called brainwave synchronization (also known as Frequency Following Effect,
Photonic Stimulation, or Photonic Driving), your brain has the ability to “match” frequencies with external stimuli, such as music. This is why listening to soothing music on its own or during a meditation can be a great way to wind down, relax, enhance meditation, and train your brain to shift states. Conversely, listening to music that is loud and fast will produce the opposite effect and act as a stimulant, raising body temperature, heart and breathing rates, and blood pressure, bringing with it corresponding emotional states.
Most of us operate predominantly on beta waves, as we live in a high stress society. Our culture is primarily based upon external stimuli, with little to no emphasis on internal examination. Both children and adults today evidence behaviors that are indicative of an inability to self regulate. Heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other stress related illnesses are on the rise. It is vital that we teach our brains to “make shift happen” and learn how to relax. Listening to slow, soft music is a simple and easy way for us to engage in self soothing, either passively (just listening) or actively (during meditation). When we do so, we are not only reaping the immediate benefits, but also setting the stage for long lasting effects as our brains learn new behavior patterns.
So that you can put the beats on your brain, here are some of my favorite “brainwave entertainment” mixes by Spring Lady, which she has so graciously made available for free download. Each mix is about an hour long.