Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Altered States of Consciousness: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta

Image credit: Rob Boudon

The brain goes through some pretty amazing changes of consciousness during a 24-hour period. Each state does something different for the brain, allowing it a full range of function and flexibility. And each comes with its own set of brainwaves, from fast and directly conscious to slow and entirely unaware of what's going on in the waking world.

Let's explore brain waves, their differences and what each accomplishes for your mind and health.

What Brain Waves Are

Brain waves are defined as neural oscillations – back-and-forth motions that happen within the central nervous system. Generally, they occur in rhythmic patterns, somewhat like music. They are caused by communication between neurons. These communications collect into larger groups and create the form of brain waves we're familiar with: alpha, beta, theta, delta and gamma.

On a macroscopic (large and measurable) level, the communications synchronize so that different parts of the brain are communicating with one another. These macroscopic brain waves are what are measurable on an electroencephalogram, or EEG. They show up as spikes and “valleys” on the graph that records them.

The Five Macroscopic Brain Wave Patterns

Each of these five major forms of brain waves performs a different function and creates a different state of consciousness. Here's what they do:

Gamma waves – Gamma waves have only recently been discovered. They are the fastest of the brain wave patterns, above 40 Hz. They are associated with “quick bursts” of insight, with so-termed epiphanies and high-level information processing.

Beta waves – Beta waves are quite fast, oscillating at approximately 14-40 Hz. These are the waves associated with full consciousness. They are necessary to maintain an alert state, logic and critical thinking. Beta waves “get you through your day.” They allow you to fully know what's going on and to respond to events in your day in a logical and safe manner.

Alpha waves – Alpha is known as the “deep relaxation” state. Alpha operates more slowly than beta, at 7.5-14 Hz. Most people slip temporarily into alpha during the day without realizing it. When we daydream, that's an example of the alpha state. We are also in alpha when we're in a light state of meditation. Alpha is necessary to access the subconsciousness, while still maintaining a degree of alert consciousness.

Theta waves – We reach theta when in a state of very deep meditation or during the very first stages of light sleep. Theta waves operate at 4-7.5 Hz. Not many people are able to reach theta during meditation, but those who are say they access amazing parts of the subconsciousness this way.

Delta waves – Delta (0.5-4 Hz) is associated with deep sleep. It is the slowest of the brain wave patterns. The deepest subconsciousness is accessed during delta. This brain wave pattern is necessary for the ultimate relaxation we need in order to achieve healing and regeneration of the mind. It may also be associated with overall healing of the body.

With the possible exception of gamma, each of these brain wave patterns is necessary in order to “exercise” your brain. Studies show that individuals deprived of the deepest of them (theta and delta) suffer in any variety of ways, particularly the emotions, concentration during the day, and overall organization of thoughts while awake.
Not only are these states natural, they're necessary for your overall health and wellbeing. Altered states aren't anything new-agey or strange. They're normal, and can deliver amazing insights as well as deep relaxation to rejuvenate you...inside and out.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Hypnotherapy and Your Brain(waves)

Image credit: Christopher Lane Photography
Hypnotherapy is an amazingly powerful science. It's hypnosis with a point - usually, to discover or better something about oneself. And for many people, it works.

If you're like me, you may have wondered just why it works, and what happens within the brain during the process. Let's talk a little about that today.

What Hypnotherapy Is

Hypnosis is the act of altering perception during deep relaxation in order to create a suggestible and responsive state. Hypnotherapy takes that a step further; it works to achieve positive feelings or changes, usually by the direction of a trained hypnotherapist. (However, it's quite possible to do this on one's own.)

Hypnotherapy might be used to reduce anxiety, address a situation that is difficult to solve, or to create changes such as weight loss, improved sports performance or the alleviation of a physical issue.

This is Your Brain on Hypnotherapy

The reason hypnotherapy works so well for many people is that under hypnosis, the brainwaves operate in the alpha state. Alpha brain waves are slower than beta waves, which you experience when you're fully alert.

In alpha, the brainwaves slow to 8-12 Hz, producing a highly relaxed condition. (Beta waves are faster; deeper, much slower waves associated with full sleep include Theta and Delta.)

While in alpha, your brain is better able to take hypnotherapy suggestions because this state is accepting of less "concrete" data. In other words, it's like a directed daydream that your brain is willing to accept as being real.

If you look in the mirror and tell yourself "I'm thin" but you don't see a thin person, your beta-operating brain will rebel and say, "Reality says otherwise." In alpha, however, if you're given the direction "You are thin" (or if you give that direction to yourself), your brain will better be able to accept the direction as a reality.

That's where real changes occur - and they can be amazing.

Why Choose Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy can, for many people, produce results they're otherwise having difficulty achieving. Because it works on a deeper level than your fully conscious state, a well-directed hypnotherapy session can bypass your logical, worrying mind and get to the core of your emotions and your beliefs.

Do not doubt the power of your "deeper" self. The alpha state is very real; you probably slip into it multiple times each day without knowing it. When you daydream, when you get so caught up in a movie that you "forget" you're in your living room, when you get lost in the vision of a beautiful blue sky, you are probably in alpha.

The difference is that with hypnotherapy, rather than having your mind wander in this relaxed and very natural state, you're giving your brain actual direction - whatever direction you want.

Beyond Beta to a Better You

There are so many potential applications for hypnotherapy that we couldn't possibly list them all here. But to name just a few, people have used the practice to:

  • achieve better fitness
  • reduce or eliminate anxiety
  • work out issues, including issues stemming from childhood
  • produce a spiritual experience
  • achieve communion with one's interpretation of God/spirit
  • eliminate addictions
  • alleviate pain
  • increase creativity
  • improve relationships
Because your brain is unique, your experience will not be like anyone else's. Some people achieve a full alpha state; others have more difficulty. And some problems may take multiple hypnotherapy sessions.

If you're interested in hypnotherapy, explore the process with an open and relaxed mind. You never know what hypnotherapy might do for you.

Sources: (more info on hypnotherapy) (a similar technique to achieve the same results) (American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists)

Saturday, 22 June 2013

What is Hypnosis?

You are getting sleepy ... Massimo Regonati / Flickr
Hypnosis is a very natural and amazingly simple way to engage your brain for a variety of purposes, including relaxation, the development of creativity or solving of problems, inducing lucid dreaming, attaining spirituality and more.

For many people, the word hypnosis seems to bring up images of Svengali radiating helpless slavishness from his fingers directly into the brain of an unwilling victim.

But rest assured, hypnosis isn't brain domination of one person over another, nor will it ever make you walk like a chicken or kiss a stranger against your will. Rather, hypnosis is a very natural mechanism - and you already do it every day.

In short, hypnosis is an alteration of the brain's state. This can be as casual a state as alpha, the light "daydreamy" condition you may find yourself in while driving a car and thinking of a fun date the night before, for instance. It also occurs when you're reading a book or watching a movie.

What is the "Normal" (Non-Hypnotized) State?

Your normal, fully alert day-to-day state is called the beta state. When you're in beta, you're fully alert and engaged in your surroundings. When you have a conversation with another person, when you're playing sports or when you're engaging with your children, you are in beta.

Alpha, a different state, is how your brain engages when you are meditating, daydreaming, thinking about something that isn't currently going on in your sphere or when you are engaged in a state of hypnosis.

How Does Hypnosis Happen Naturally?

Have you ever been deeply engrossed in a movie on TV and suddenly realized you hadn't "seen" the rest of the room for a while because you were so into what was happening on the screen? That was a light state of hypnosis.

Hypnosis can involve deeper brain states as well. It all depends upon how deeply you wish to be hypnotized. That's right - contrary to Hollywood stereotypes of the process, you can not be hypnotized against your will. Whether you become hypnotized, and how deeply you go into the state, is always within your control.

Your mind uses hypnosis throughout the day to daydream, plan ahead, relax, work out problems regarding events that aren't directly happening, or sometimes to avoid situations. Although you already self-hypnotize in a very natural way, you can refine the process so that your self-hypnosis sessions are more directed and produce better results.

How Does One Become Hypnotized?

Generally, you can either hypnotize yourself or you can ask someone else to hypnotize you. The latter requires a degree of trust on the part of the individual being hypnotized.

You can also choose to use a CD or MP3 of a guided meditation in order to induce the state you want. This will help you feel more in control of the process while receiving the benefits of an expert in the field, who knows what to say and how to say it in order to induce a hypnotized state.

In future posts, we'll be discussing hypnosis in general, including tips to get you into a state of hypnosis and various ways you can use it to make your life truly amazing.

We're glad to introduce you to the concept of hypnosis on this blog and we hope you'll join us on our journey as we explore self-hypnosis, directed hypnosis/guided meditation and more. Welcome!