At the root of your thoughts, emotions and behaviors is the communication between billions of neurons. Through a shared network of nerves in the brain, these neurons send and receive signals of electromagnetic impulse.
The result of this immense activity can be registered and tracked as a “brain wave pattern.”
In 1924, a German physiologist and psychiatrist named Hans Berger recorded the first human brain wave pattern using sensitive equipment referred to as EEG (electroencephalographic).
- History and Evolution of Electroencephalogram Instruments and Techniques (Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology)
Brain wave states are divided into five different categories based on frequency.
The state of our waves changes throughout the day and are part of a feedback cycle (Hz) that is influenced by what we’re doing, thinking, seeing, smelling, and feeling emotionally at any given time—or even while we are asleep.
1. Beta – This wave state occurs when we are in full consciousness and are aware of our surroundings. From this state, we experience the perception of space and time while in our normal waking state of mind. The beta state is identified by brain wave cycles of between 12 – 27Hz per second.
In cases where higher cycles are recorded, this may signify incidences of stress or anxiety. Generally speaking, higher Beta cycles are not good and may raise other medical concerns such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and cortisol production.
2. Alpha/ relaxation state – In the alpha mind, our brain waves slow down into a much more relaxed and aware state. This state of mind is associated with creativity and feelings of flow. Alpha is characterized by cycles of between 7 -13Hz and mostly occurs while in partial consciousness, occurring naturally when we drift in and out of sleep.
At this brain wave state, we become aware of our subconscious activity, where we are open to mental imagery and lucid dreaming while still alert and conscious. While in this lucid state of flow, learning and processing new information is optimized.
3. Theta – Usually characterized by very deep relaxation, sleep, and dream state. Hypnosis therapy attempts to achieve this level of consciousness — in this state, the individual is said to be in a trance and highly receptive to suggestion. The brain wave cycle at this stage is between 4- 8Hz per second. It is the entry point of ideas, creativity, and visualizations.
4. Delta / deep sleep – Characterized by a brain wave cycle of between 1-4Hz per second. At this stage, you completely enter the subconscious domain. You are in a dreamless, unconscious state of deep mind-body-spirit renewal. It is believed that advanced meditators can achieve this state while still awake.
The Alpha State of Mind
The alpha state of mind is a lucid and vivid state of relaxed awareness. This is achieved during deep meditation or while entering deep sleep.
Research reveals that the alpha brain wave level can also be achieved even while wide awake. It is from this state of consciousness that we are able to experience intense clarity and presence of the moment where time seems almost non-existent.
When the mind is able to flow freely without being attached to a specific thought, alpha mind is typically the most active. This is because when alpha waves are prominent, sensory input is minimized and your mind is generally clear of compulsive thoughts.
Mindfulness training and meditation tend to produce noticeably more alpha waves, which is why alpha-infused audio therapy has been used as a way to reduce anxiety and stress.
The alpha state of mind is linked to flow state — a state of complete immersion in the moment. This is where focus and creativity is at peak level, often accompanied by a feeling of natural euphoria.
Benefits of Alpha State Brainwaves
- Confidence. When you are extremely calm, yet very focused, aware of your surroundings, and full of energy, you become much more confident. In the alpha state of mind, you are able to bypass the part of your brain that is associated with fear and worry. The alpha mind is confident and fully present — this sensation is said to be similar to the feeling of being ‘naturally high.’
- Relaxation of the body and mind. The alpha state of mind can only be achieved when you are completely relaxed. Brain activity is slowed down, providing a deeper connection to your body and to the moment, with razor-sharp mental clarity and focus. Stress and anxiety are eliminated — you are sitting in pure awareness.
- Increased creativity. People with an above-average level of creativity, such as artists, writers, and innovators, experience the alpha brain state much more often than the average person. This shows that people can utilize this state of mind to improve their creativity and ability to create new opportunities and solve problems.
- Improved critical thinking and learning capabilities. At alpha brainwave, both the conscious and subconscious parts of the mind are integrated into harmony. As a result, an individual has increased abilities to solve problems, vividly recount past experiences, and critically analyze situations.
- Ability to control emotions. While in the alpha state of mind, there exists a space between your thought patterns and emotions. Within this space resides calm energy and a tranquil vibration. People with anger management problems or those who are experiencing emotional turbulence can tap into this level and experience much more emotional balance. This calm sensation is often described as deeply euphoric.
It has also been shown that while in this state of flow an individual can concentrate, learn, and think much more effectively. Spontaneous bursts of insight are associated with the alpha state.
Although it is easy to achieve the alpha state of mind while in a light sleep or in highly relaxed conditions, intentionally reaching this state of flow in order to benefit in everyday life can be achieved through meditation.
How to Achieve the Alpha State of Mind
First, you have to be as comfortable as you possibly can. You can lie down flat on your back or sit comfortably – either in the lotus position or in a comfortable chair.
The next step is getting rid of all disturbances and noises. You can have soft music playing in the background to soothe the mood. Binaural beats meditation music can be used as a powerful way to help you relax.
Close your eyes with the intention of clearing your mind. Take slow breaths deep into your diaphragm, and feel your body release any tension or anxiety. With each breath you are becoming more relaxed. Continue this for 5 minutes.
Upon relaxation, you can start counting from 1 to 10, breathing deeply in and out, and then back down from 10 to 1, fully concentrating on each number as the countdown continues. Feel each breathe energize your cells and calm your mind. With time, you will be able to drift into the alpha state.
Each time you visit this state in daily meditation, it will become stronger and more vibrant; as well as more accessible.
It is worth noting that you may not achieve this state of mind with the first try. You have to keep on practicing until you get a good sense of what it feels like to fall back into this state of relaxation. After all, meditation is a never-ending process of dedication, discipline, and discovery.