Your brain operates within a certain bandwidth of frequencies, which can be measured using scientific equipment such as EEG scans. Millions of neurons are busy firing away, and the signals they communicate to each other create an electrical activity which is measured as a brainwave pattern. By understanding your brainwave frequencies, you can learn to hack your mind.
Day to day, the brain operates at frequencies of between 0.5Hz, and 90Hz, which are broken down into categories ranging from the deep sleep delta state, all the way up to the hyper-alert gamma state.
If your brainwaves measure 18Hz, then you are probably busy and alert, or you are worried and stressed. If your brainwaves measure 5Hz, then you are probably in a trance-like state; otherwise you are asleep. Each brainwave has a different function.
In reality the patterns of the brain are incredibly complex, and so are the brainwave patterns that your neurons create. They overlap, and are active in various areas of the brain. To simplify this, it is assumed that the dominant brainwave frequency is the one that you are currently residing on.
Brainwave Frequencies & Their Associated Mental State
Given that the brain rarely operates outside of the bandwidths of 0.5Hz to 90Hz, brainwave frequencies are generally broken down into five overlapping categories within this range. Each bandwidth has its own set of mental qualities. Below is a table that loosely describes the associations, along with the effects of brainwave entrainment of that frequency:
|Gamma||30+||Present in all areas of brain, and play a supporting role for other brain patterns. Unifies thought processes and brings perceptions together into coherent picture. ‘In the zone’ peak performance.||Feelings of at oneness, compassion and happiness. May improve information processing.Caution: Not much is yet known about the Gamma state. Take care when experimenting.|||
|Beta||12-30||Alert and focused state of mind that is used often in everyday life. Critical problem solving and information processing. Lower levels are more relaxed focus, while higher levels can mean stress, anxiety, and mental overdrive.||Help to improve brain functioning in logical areas such as maths, reading, and writing. Improve concentration and mental focus, especially useful for those with attention issues or ADD. Most people run on beta too often, so brainwave entrainment on this level is not recommended unless you feel you cannot motivate
|Alpha||7-12||Relaxed but waking state, most prevalent upon waking or just before sleep. Calm and at ease, mental functioning in a zen-like state. Information absorbed with less barriers, which lends itself to affirmations and visualizations. More prevalent in practitioners of meditation, who can remain calm in the midst of chaos.||Brainwave entrainment of alpha helps you to achieve a more relaxed and enjoyable state of mind, switch off after a hard day, or get more
sleep. Use for light meditation and affirmations. Reduce stress, increase creativity, problem solving, and intuition.
|Theta||4-7||This is the realms of your subconscious mind, usually most dominant during REM sleep and dreaming. Waking experience of theta is a dreamy, visual, abstract, and highly creative one. Trance and deep meditative states may arise in theta.||Can be used for extreme relaxation, and as an aid for sleep. Entrainment at the theta level is usually used for meditation, lucid dreaming, trance, and affirmation type work.Can bypass subconscious mind, making theta a super-learning state when combined with higher knowledge or affirmations. Increases insight and creativity.|
|Delta||0.5-4||The deepest and slowest frequency that humans usually exhibit, and associated with being flat out in a dreamless sleep. Functioning is minimal, basic bodily systems slow down, consciousness is lost. Body enters this state naturally to activate cell healing, release growth hormone, and reset your internal clock.||Most often used to get straight to sleep. Very useful for insomniacs.Use for deep body healing. Can be used for very deep levels of meditation, but practice will be needed, as the frequency is more likely to put you to sleep.|
Why Is It Important To Understand Brainwave Frequencies?
Understanding your brainwaves is not only interesting stuff, but is also incredibly useful for living a good life.
Everything you experience is effected by and has an effect on your brainwaves. There exists a constant interaction between your brain and the environment.
Our brainwaves change according to what we are feeling or doing, and there is a relationship between our brain frequency and our perceptual experience of life. Anything that changes your perception therefore changes your brainwave patterns, whether it be a chemical such as a drug, or a meditation practice, or a busy road that requires your attention.
Understanding that the brain has a range of frequencies is useful in itself. You can know that actually, that stressed out person that cannot sleep is not you; It is just you when your brain is running at a frequency of around 15Hz or more.
Binaural beats, and other techniques for brain change, can be used as a way to restore balance in your brain, or to consciously take control of your brainwave frequency, for any number of reasons. This is known as brainwave entrainment, and is becoming much more widely regarded for its benefits. The full range of possible uses and advantages are covered in this article by Mental Health Daily.
The problem with our brain’s functioning today, is that we seem rarely to consciously use much of our range. We spend most of our time rushing around on the beta frequency. The beta frequency deals with information and problem solving, and works quickly to get the job done. Does that you remind you of anything?
The overactivity of the beta frequency is a sign of the times, and is prevalent because of the constant stresses of a rushed life. Although beta is very useful when it comes to getting stuff done on a practical level, it is also the brainwave frequency most associated with three very common ailments in our world: stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. Coincidence? I would say not. We seem to live in a feedback loop of overactive stress.
The only time we tend to dip into the more relaxed frequencies of the mind seems to be when we sleep, and even that is a struggle for a lot of people, with over 1/4 number of people reportedly not getting enough sleep in the US, and 10% suffering from full blown insomnia. In other words, millions of people are unable to slow their minds down to get some rest.
Our ancestors, it would be expected, spent a great deal more time on alpha frequencies (as is common when you spend a lot of time in nature) and in theta frequencies, as is common in shamanic trance, meditation, vision quests, and other spiritual ventures.
With so many people unable to ‘switch off’ their busy brains, understanding your brainwaves is more important than ever.
Controlling Your Brainwave Frequencies
Allowing your brain to operate on a wider range of frequencies, as well as your everyday beta state, will open you up to a whole world of possibilities. The first of these possibilities is relaxation, which will bring you relief from the constant tension of an overactive mind that is possible with alpha and theta states.
You can also use binaural beats for a better night’s sleep. You may even find that your previous stress and worries begin to slip away, and that you become altogether calmer in life.
The alpha and theta states also tend to induce a variety of spiritual experiences to those who seek them. As you explore these previously subconscious areas of the brain, you may find that you can access deep meditative and lucid dream-like states.
Of course, if you don’t feel like you have a beta-complex, and feel that you have different brainwave inbalances to deal with, then you will want to take a different approach. Perhaps you are always tired and sluggish? This would suggest that you spend too much time in a delta or theta state, and need to wake up to a high alpha or beta frequency in order to get more done.
Methods For Controlling Brainwave Frequencies
People have been controlling brainwave frequencies long before we could measure them with EEGs. For thousands of years people have used disciplines like yoga and meditation, or chemical means such as hallucinatory drugs, in order to access deeper states of mind. These modes of access allowed people to explore what is generally recognized as the theta state of mind. (See my article on altered states of consciousness to find more ways to voyage.)
Practitioners of meditation have shown varying brain activity which tends to be different to people who do not meditate, including less beta and more alpha activity in their waking state.
Modern methods of controlling brainwave frequencies include neuro-feedback, as well as brainwave entrainment technologies such as binaural beats.
Using Binaural Beats To Control Brainwave Frequencies
An effective method that you can use to control your brainwave frequencies are binaural beats. They are an audio method in which two separate frequencies, one into each ear via stereo headphones. The brain interprets the difference between the two as a third frequency, and sets itself to match.
For example, if you use a frequency of 600Hz through the right ear, and 605Hz through the left ear, the brain will set its brainwaves at 5Hz, a dreamy theta state.
This is known as brain entrainment, because you are literally training your brain to work on different bandwidths; preferably more relaxed and enjoyable ones!
We provide a free online binaural beats generator, which you can use to select the exact frequencies for your brain entrainment. The result is absolute control over your brainwave frequencies, and therefore over your moods and perceptions.