Thursday, May 7, 2009

Advantages and disadvantages of alpha brainwave stimulation (8 – 12 Hz)

Alpha waves describe the brain electrical activity in the frequency range from 8 to 12 hz during periods of waking relaxation with the eyes closed. Conversely alpha waves are attenuated with open eyes as well as by drowsiness and sleep. They are thought to represent the activity of the visual cortex in an idle state.

Alpha is generally thought of as the normal brainwave that is dominant in people who are relaxed, creative, and have a clear mind. Alpha is considered the “normal” brainwave pattern and is dominant when people close their eyes.

Alpha stimulation is considered the healthiest and the frequency recommended ranges around the 10 Hz. It has widely been accepted as the “safest” brainwave frequency to train.

There isn’t a single brain wave pattern is better than the others, so don’t think alpha brainwaves are a “cure all.” If your brain is deficient in the alpha brainwave pattern, increasing them can help you a lot.

Benefits of increasing alpha brain waves:

Relaxed body and mind
The alpha brainwave is associated with a completely relaxed body and mind. The brain’s thought process is slowed and the mind is clear. The body is completely relaxed and free of all tension and nervousness. Boosting the alpha brain wave is a great way to enjoy the feeling of relaxation and a great way to let go of all worries and tension.

Higher levels of creativity
The alpha brainwave rhythm is generally associated with above average levels of creativity. Alpha brainwave levels are found to be much higher in artists, musicians, and creative thinkers. Creative problem solvers are what many employers currently need to think of new, creative, innovative ideas for their companies. If you’d like to boost your creativity, consider giving alpha brainwaves a boost.

Improved ability to problem-solve
The problem associated with having too much of the beta brainwave pattern is the inabiltiy to problem solve and get past “mental blocks” by thinking creatively. Ever get writer’s block? Increasing your alpha brainwaves will most likely help you keep “flowing” right through your paper or article without getting “stuck.”

Balanced mood (emotional stability)
The alpha brainwave, especially the 10 Hz frequency, is associated with a balanced mood and stable emotions. Many overanxious and hyperactive, unstable people could greatly improve their brains by increasing their alpha brainwaves. Feeling emotionally stable means not overreacting to stressful situations and being able to maintain a calm state of mind. The alpha brainwave state is associated with a very stable state of mind.

The 10 Hz alpha brainwave frequency is commonly referred to as a “peak performance” state of mind or being “in the zone.” There has been conclusive evidence from studies with professional basketball players and golfers that show alpha brainwaves increasing in their “left hemispheres” just before making a free-throw or shooting a great golf shot.

In players that did not make the shot, beta brainwaves flooded their left-hemisphere. It seems that “over thinking” (beta brainwaves) or “under thinking” (theta brainwaves) are detrimental to gameplay.

The study was also proved by comparing elite marksmen to novice marksmen. The elite marksmen showed a big burst of alpha in their left-brain hemisphere before their perfect shots.

Lowered levels of stress & anxiety
Lowered levels of stress and anxiety is a huge benefit that the alpha brainwave can bring to your life. Know anyone suffering from chronic stress or rapid, anxious thoughts? Suggest brainwave entrainment to them and have them read over this article to see whether or not they’d like to try to increase their alpha brainwaves.

Flow state of consciousness
A state of “flow,” refers to a mental state that all events and things seem to pass without problems. You are able to deal with life’s problems easily and aren’t overanxious or too relaxed. You are somewhere in between overstimulation and understimulation. In essence, you’re mind is “balanced” and in an optimal state of functioning.

“Super learning” ability
The alpha brainwave spectrum has been associated with “super learning” and being able to remember and retain information with less overall effort. The alpha brainwave state mostly improves one’s natural ability to passively absorb large amounts of information. Basically, you don’t need to make as much of an effort to learn a new ability, language, or skill.

Boosted immune system
Enhancing your alpha brainwaves can lead to self-healing and prevention of illness. This is due to the fact that alpha waves are usually associated with “lack of stress” and “relaxation.” Stress and too much anxiety can do harm to the immune system by releasing harmful chemicals such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and too much of the hormone: cortisol, associated with the adrenaline release.

Positive thinking
There has been some research that has found the alpha brainwave rhythm, especially the 10 Hz frequency, to be associated with a positive state of mind (i.e. positive thoughts), a positive mood, and an overall feeling of wellness.

Increased levels of “serotonin”
Alpha brainwaves are associated with the neurotransmitter serotonin being released. Low levels of serotonin have been one factor that some researchers have linked to depression.

Do not increase your alpha brainwaves if you suffer from the following:

Lack of focus
Like I mentioned earlier, not everyone will benefit from an alpha brainwave increase. Though the alpha brainwave isn’t usually linked to lack of focus and ADD, in some cases it can created a foggy state of mind. If you are already very unfocused, increasing the alpha brainwave pattern is usually not recommended.

Too many daydreams
As you increase your alpha brainwaves, you may have too many daydreams without much control. Some daydreams are fine, but higher than average amounts of alpha brainwaves wouldn’t be of much benefit if you are already daydreamy.

High amounts of alpha brainwaves in conjunction with relatively little beta brainwave activity has been linked to depression. Though peak-performers are able to generate a big burst of alpha in their left hemisphere right before their best shots, too much alpha activity in the left-hemisphere of the brain has been linked to depression. If you are depressed from being overstimulated, alpha will probably help you out, if you are too understimulated, I suggest staying away from alpha and sticking to beta waves.

The alpha brainwave pattern has been linked to tiredness and drowsiness in some individuals. If you are working to increase your alpha and you notice yourself becoming tired or drowsy, it may be temporary and your brain is most likely readjusting to fit the new pattern. With that said, alpha brainwaves are the brainwaves that are naturally produced right after you close your eyes to fall asleep.

Overly receptive
In the alpha brainwave state, your brain may be overly receptive to suggestions and new information. Being overly receptive isn’t always a good thing and can make your subconscious more open to accepting negative suggested beliefs.

Healthy ways to increase alpha brainwaves:

Brainwave entrainment
As I mention a lot, brainwave entrainment is great for fine tuning your state of consciousness and awareness. If you want to increase your alpha brainwaves, brainwave entrainment is an easy process that involves simply listening to a tone (stimulus) and your brainwaves naturally match the frequency associated with the tone.

The goal of most types of meditation is to lower the brainwaves into the alpha-theta brainwave range. A very safe, healthy way to increase your alpha brainwaves is to make meditation a daily habit or start up a meditation routine. If you are already meditating, great! You’ll naturally increase flexibility with your alpha brainwaves as you continue the process.

The goal of self-hypnosis is to target the lower brainwave ranges (i.e. alpha and theta). Doing self-hypnosis on a consistent basis will definitely help you reduce stress by increasing the natural amount of your alpha brainwaves.

Every time that you close your eyes and visualize, alpha activity significantly increases. If you are the type of person that often enjoys shutting your eyes to imaging or picture things, you’ll have a naturally higher amount of alpha brainwave activity than others. Visualization can go hand-in-hand with a meditation practice, but if you’d rather only visualize, you’ll still be boosting your alpha brainwaves!

Like meditation, yoga is yet another activity that promotes relaxation and wellbeing by shifting your brainwaves to the calming patterns of alpha and theta. There are many different types of yoga, and if practiced right, they’ll definitely allow you to tap into your alpha awareness.

Deep breathing is not only great for improving overall oxygen levels in the brain and body, it is great for achieving a state of relaxation. When you make deep-breathing a habit, you will begin to feel more relaxed and your brainwaves will shift from the somewhat stressful beta brainwaves to the alpha rhythm.

Saunas / Hot Tubs
Not only do saunas and hot tubs cause your entire body to feel completely relaxed, they cause your mind to quiet and drowsiness to kick in. The brainwave associated with those feelings of relaxation like you’ve been sitting in a hot tub or in a steamy sauna are the alpha waves. Same would apply for laying in the sun tanning on a nice warm beach — feeling the hot sun soak into your body is deeply relaxing. That feeling of deep relaxation is due to an increased amount of alpha brainwaves.

Watching T.V.
After just 30 seconds of watching T.V., your brain’s alpha brainwaves kick in. Even if you happen to be reading captions or text on the T.V. screen, the alpha waves still kick in! Normally, beta brainwaves kick in while reading, but not while reading on T.V. All radiant light from cathode-ray technology in T.V.’s and other appliances automatically cause the brain to idle and shift to the alpha rhythm. I personally don’t consider watching T.V. to be the best way to increase your alpha brainwaves, but I’m not going to put it in the unhealthy category.

Unhealthy ways to increase alpha brainwaves:

Drinking alcohol
In moderation, alcohol probably won’t kill your precious brain cells, but it isn’t a healthy activity for your body or your brain. Alcohol is a huge alpha brainwave booster. Are you a person that is constantly getting drunk to relax? Alpha brainwaves are the reason that tense and stressed people turn to alcohol. When you are drunk, your brain produces lots of alpha brainwaves and lowers your inhibitions.

Smoking marijuana
Though there is controversy as to whether or not smoking marijuana is good or bad, I personally don’t consider marijuana or any other illegal substance to be healthy. Smoking marijuana does increase alpha brainwaves, which is why smoking marijuana makes people feel relaxed. Marijuana will not give you the aware, synchronized, peak-performance alpha brainwave that most people are striving for.

Final evaluation of alpha brainwaves:
I personally think that alpha brainwaves feel awesome to increase and the 10 Hz brainwave is the safest brainwave to entrain. However, you should be the judge as to whether or not increasing them is best for you. If you are already experiencing many of the listed “benefits,” you probably don’t need much of an alpha booster.

Are you already a relaxed, laid back person that feels emotionally stable? If so, chances are good that your brain naturally produces large amounts of alpha brainwave activity and you may be perfect in the alpha range. If you are experiencing too many of the listed negative effects, you may want to consider speeding up your brainwaves into the beta range.

If you are over anxious, tend to worry a lot, and aren’t emotionally balanced, chances are good that you’d benefit from the alpha increase.

Extracted from:
Understanding the alpha brainwave

Example of alpha session

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