Having a deeper understanding of the brainwaves our brain experiences is the first step to hacking the system and encouraging your mind to experience these brainwaves when you need them most - whether that’s when you’re trying to fall asleep, study for that big exam or gain inspiration for an upcoming project. Check out the science behind it all and some top tips below!
They say that you have to choose between following your head or following your heart. As if your brain and body are out of sync in some way. Perhaps this is why we sometimes have difficulty focusing on the task in-front, procrastination, or getting to sleep at night? Why does it feel like sometimes our brain isn’t in the mental state your body wants it to be in?
When you delve into this a little deeper, you realise that understanding this requires an acknowledgement of the brain waves which your brain produces at different times or during different activities. These brainwaves are the patterns of electrical activity occurring in the brain due to the masses of neurons firing and communicating with each other. This communication is the root of everything we do, from movement to more complex things like our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. The bandwidth (gaps between these waves) are divided into categories to describe their function from slow to fast. Our brainwaves and the bandwidth changes depending on what we’re doing or feeling, which is often what leads to this mis-match feeling between our brain and our body.
If you’re feeling tired, sluggish or slow it’s probably because your brainwave is slower. The same goes if you’re wired and hyper-alert, your brainwave is functioning at a higher frequency.
There are 5 brainwave states I want to share with you. Being aware of these brainwaves enables you to ‘hack the system’ some may say which I’ll share my tips for too!
1. Gamma Waves - this is the highest frequency! It’s usually only found during states of heightened perception, learning or extreme problem solving. It’s also known as our peak mental state. Buddhist Monks are shown to have strong presences of these Gamma waves due to their long-term meditation. However, it’s a very inefficient and energy draining state!
2. Beta Waves - this is what’s usually found during our awake state. This is a fast activity usually present when we’re alert and engaged in high cognitive functions like problem solving, judgment and decision making. This takes a lot of energy and isn’t exactly efficient so knowing when you’re in this state is a key advantage to making the most of it!
3. Alpha Waves - usually found during a normal meditative state. Slower than Beta waves, Alpha is all about being present and ‘in the now’. This is a resting and recovering state of the brain which can aid in mental coordination, calmness, alertness, learning and the integration between mind and body. This is also known as a state of relaxed awareness. Your critical mind is set to one side and you are openly absorbing information. Televisions are designed to put us into this brainwave to encourage us to zone in, and before you know it hours have passed! It also explains why it’s difficult to hold a conversation and watch TV at the same time.
4. Theta Waves - are dominant during sleep and deep meditation. This is slower than Alpha. This brainwave is known as ‘the gateway to learning, memory and intuition. We’re ‘withdrawn from the external world and focused on the signals originating from within’ the body. We usually experience this only briefly as we wake or drift into sleep. However, this is the brainwave during which we dream, have vivid images, intuition and grasp information beyond our normal conscious awareness. You’ll notice yourself in this brainwave if you find yourself daydreaming during work, or when you can’t remember the last 2kms of your driving commute! However you were probably in a state where you were coming up with some great ideas so it’s a dangerous, yet useful situation!
5. Delta Waves - these slow and deeply penetrating brainwaves are only generated in the deepest stages of meditation and dreamless sleep. This is the source which stimulates of empathy, healing and regeneration. This stage of sleep is super important if you’re unwell or healing from an injury. During this state of dreamless sleep, your brainwaves drop to the lowest frequency (2 to 3 cycles a second)!
‘When you are getting ready for bed, you’ll most likely experience each brainwave descending from Beta, to Alpha, to Theta and finally (once you’re asleep) Delta!’
Theta and Alpha are extremely important brainwave states for learning. Theta - when you’re in and out of sleep is an amazingly creative state. Ironically, showers put us into this state of Theta. Which is why most people enjoy showering right after they wakeup or just prior to sleep. It also explains why many people come up with their best ideas in the shower, or dreams! Therefore, it seems logical to want to encourage your brain into a state of Theta as much as possible. Think about how many world problems could’ve been solved if we all spent a little more time in Theta!
This is why it’s really important to remember your dreams, write down these creative ideas which you get just after you wake up or when you’re trying desperately to fall asleep. I often find that when I’m trying to sleep, my brain is already planning for the day ahead. I’m dreaming up all the wild things I could accomplish and so I have to write these down to encourage my brain to relax. I end up waking up to a completely unrealistic to-do list but hey!
Another great tip to encourage sleep is to listen to Theta binaural beats which you can easily find on YouTube. This is also a great way to focus during a study session during which you’re trying to learn and remember content. However, if you’re studying a subject like maths or science, I’d encourage searching for Beta binaural beats. After a study session, listen to Alpha binaural beats or check out my tips below on how to encourage the Alpha brainwave. Alpha is the ideal brainwave to help the brain assimilate, organise and remember the content you just learnt or revised.
In a modern society, our brains are rewired to be so distracted due to social media and device use which means that we slaughter our productivity and performance levels and enable distraction to inhibit everything we do. Creativity isn’t just something people are born with, it’s a process and it’s a state of mind. When you wake up, you move through Theta and into a relaxed state of awareness (Alpha). When you pick up your phone, you’re rewiring your brain to succumb to distraction and be reactive to the world around you.
Therefore, refrain from using your phone first thing in the morning this completely cuts our brains opportunity to be in a Theta state because it immediately forces our brains into a state of consciousness (Beta). It’s also a very vulnerable time for our brains, therefore if you wake up, check your phone and see a distressing text message or read a horrible article it’s likely to sit at the forefront of your mind for the rest of the day! Set yourself a goal to not use your devices until after breakfast!
Win the morning so you can win the day! Create regular rituals and routines for yourself so your morning routine is an effortless flow. This enables you to benefit from the science of momentum, enabling you to create a positive flow which helps you accomplish what you need to do rather than react to the world around you.
Think of it this way: Be a thermostat, not a thermometer. Take control and set the tone for your day, rather than just reacting and responding to your environment.
Encourage the brainwave Alpha through meditation to improve your mental coordination and the connection between body and mind. Encouraging Alpha brainwaves is also a great way to get inspired and boost your mood. You can encourage Alpha by using deep diaphragmatic breathing (see our video teaching you how here), having a relaxing bath or through a practice like yoga. You’re also probably aware of activities which relax you, whether this is reading a book, listening to soothing music or having a massage. Use these activities to help you focus and combat distraction!
Understanding brainwaves and how the brain works is the first step in taking control and encouraging the brain into states of increased focus, productivity and awareness! I've found brainwaves to be super interesting to look into and I'm excited to explore the concept of brainwave training more in the future!
What tips are you planning on trying?
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Hi there! Thanks for checking out the Live Lively blog. I am so excited to share my passion for productivity, personal growth and wellbeing!