Healing Indulgence

Healing Indulgence 

Alpha Waves

Most people associate alpha brain waves with calmness and relaxing with our eyes closed. Others believe that they are a natural cure for anxiety and stress. Some researchers even think that alpha activity at 10 Hz may be linked to states of relaxed “peak performance.” In any regard, below are some effects of dominant alpha activity.

  • Balanced mood: Individuals that are depressed as a result of being “over-stressed” could feel an antidepressant effect when their alpha activity increases. Alpha activity – specifically in the right hemisphere of the brain has been shown to boost mood. Some people also experience a more “balanced” mood when they increase their Alpha Waves.
  • Calmness: Most people associate the alpha range with feelings of calmness. People that are stressed have a diminished ability to produce these waves. When we are at our calmest with our eyes closed and are idly relaxing, this is when we experience alpha as a dominant brain wave state.
  • Creativity: It has been hypothesized that alpha activity is linked to increases in creativity. Since it is produced predominantly by the right hemisphere, it is thought that it may enhance artistic ability as well as creative problem solving skills. Sometimes when we relax, we experience “aha” moments – this is a result of the alpha wave. It is creative, relaxed, problem solving which gives us a different perspective.
  • Daydreaming: If you close your eyes or daydream a lot, this may be evidence of alpha increases. Most adults tend to be very focused and task-oriented. Alpha is more common in younger children that tend to daydream a lot and have difficulties focusing. In some cases, it is even linked to ADHD if the increased alpha is accompanied by other slow wave activity (e.g. theta).
  • Decreased focus: During the alpha brain wave state, many individuals have poorer focus and concentration. It has been shown that the greater the amount of alpha activity, the more likely someone is to make a mistake. Studies have shown that when someone makes a mistake, alpha activity increases an average of 25%. In other words, the person is on “auto pilot” or too “idle” to perform a certain task. When alpha decreases, attention and focus increase. Therefore, alpha is not ideal for critical thinking and/or detail-oriented, technical work.
  • Flow state of mind: It has been thought that the 10 Hz alpha wave is key in a “flow” state of consciousness. A state of flow is characterized by being calm and focused at the same time. In other words, the saying “mind like water” holds true. It is able to go with the flow without getting overly aroused or being “idle.” This is considered a happy medium between the fast paced beta”>beta waves and the drowsy theta”>theta waves.
  • Immune system: Some have hypothesized that our immune system benefits from increasing Alpha Waves. This in part has to do with the fact that relaxation can help our bodies recover from the toxic effect of stress. It is known that stress can cause all sorts of health problems, so it is no wonder that relaxing (in the alpha range) helps boost the immune system.
  • Peak performance: Despite the fact that the 40 Hz gamma waves has been linked to peak performance, so has the 10 Hz alpha wave. It is hypothesized that a synchronized 10 Hz rhythm across both hemispheres may play a role in helping people achieve a relaxed state of peak performance. There have been studies conducted involving basketball players and golfers and when they missed a shot (basketball) and/or hit a bad shot (golf), they experienced spikes of beta activity. When they sank a free throw or hit a good shot, they maintained alpha activity.
  • Positive thinking: This isn’t the high-energy, excitement-type, positive thinking of the beta range. However, when people experience alpha increases it is linked to having a more optimistic outlook on life. People tend to be calm and think fairly positive with dominant alpha. Think of this as the opposite of rapid-negative stressful or angry thoughts.
  • Problem solving: For thinking outside the box, some would argue that the alpha range is what helps. Individuals sometimes get so stressed out that all they do is keep thinking and ruminating about possible solutions, but can never solve their problem. Sometimes it helps to simply slow the mind down and then the solution appears easily and naturally in the alpha state.
  • Relaxation: Anytime you feel deeply relaxed, you are experiencing alpha brain waves. Think of times right before you go to bed and transition into sleep. Your eyes are closed, you are relaxing and you experience a sense of calmness. If you like to lay out in the sun and tan and experience a sense of relaxation while lying with your eyes closed, this also provides an alpha boost.
  • Serotonin: When we relax, our body is able to naturally produce more serotonin. It is hypothesized that alpha may release more serotonin and thus increase our ability to relax, stay calm, and ward off stress.
  • Slower visual acuity: Since alpha activity decreases when people are fully awake with eyes open, it is linked with slower visual acuity. In other words, visual processing speed while you are awake is negatively affected by increases in alpha.
  • Super learning: Some have argued that increases in alpha contribute to a state of “super learning.” Meaning more of our brain is able to absorb information and thus we learn better. I tend to disagree with this hypothesis based on the fact that alpha activity tends to decrease focus. There may be some degree of truth to this for certain types of learning if accompanied by appropriate beta.
  • Visualization: If you like to close your eyes and visualize, this is the brain wave that you will experience. Anytime you close your eyes, are relaxed, and visualizing internally (e.g. mind’s eye), you will come to learn what the alpha range feels like.

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