Forums on self-development are often full of complaints about the less-than-satisfactory experience that people have with brain entrainment sessions. If anything, the sessions only leave them with a sense of imbalance, or grogginess, or a vague feeling of discomfort or irritability. This article examines why it is so, and what can be done to have a more enriching and beneficial session.
Self-development, binaural beats, brain entrainment, thought-focus, Heinrich Dove, Gerald Oster, gamma, beta, alpha, delta, theta, frequency-following response
Binaural Beats – A brief overview
The technology of binaural beats has been known to mankind since 1839, that’s almost one-and-a-half centuries. When Professor Heinrich Dove announced his discovery of beats and how it impacted the brain, people looked upon it as idle scientific curiosity. So a beat is generated, nice. What next? It took the research work of people like Dr. Gerald Oster, who published his paper in the October 1973 issue of Scientific American, and Robert Monroe, to bring this subject back into the limelight.
We know what Binaural beats are. They are special sound effects that are created in the brain’s auditory cortex when some sound is played in our two ears: the condition is that the sound in the left ear and that in the right ear should each have a pitch that differs by anywhere between >0Hz and 50Hz. The brain resolves this difference in the auditory cortex by generating a third sound effect that pulsates at a value which is equal to this very difference.
Binaural beats refers to sound effects that have a frequency in the range >0Hz and 50Hz. This is the range of frequencies at which the brain itself, as a “electromagnetic pulse generating device”, emits pulses. Scientists have discovered four major bands within this range; the mind and the body are in very specific states when the brain is emitting pulses at frequency lying in either of these bands:
Delta: >0Hz and <>40Hz.
Theta: 4Hz and 7Hz.
Alpha: 7Hz and 13Hz.
Beta: 13Hz and 40Hz.
Delta is the frequency when you are meditating, and when you have no interest in the world around you; you are deep inside yourself, focused. Gamma is the frequency that the brain emanates when you are right out there in the world, grappling with things of importance – such as solving a riddle, juggling balls in the air, taking down orders from a customer, figuring out which pharmaceutical store will be able to provide medicines that your grandma urgently needs, or rushing to the aid of somebody you see is in trouble and could do with your help. Alpha is the one where both the mind and the body are relaxing, at peace with you and with the world. That is also the state that your brain shifts into, when it is preparing to lull you into sleep.
Advantages Of Binaurals
When the brain is subjected to sound waves capable of creating binaural beats, it begins to generate electromagnetic waves which match the beat frequency. Like a machine, it simply and naturally responds to the frequency it generally vibes with (within the >0Hz and 50Hz range). Scientists call it the brain’s “frequency following response” (FFR). And when this happens, magic begins.
Research after research has proven the effect of binaurals on the health and wellbeing of individuals. Students are able to perform better when their brains are entrained to theta frequencies. ADHD children have been observed to significantly alleviate their condition when entrained to beta frequencies . Hypertension and stress levels reduce when people latch on to alpha beats. At different frequency levels, the body and the mind react differently. The trick here, therefore, is to understand what your body and mind actually need to be entrained to.
Upon scouring the forums on this subject, however, I find people complaining of listlessness, irritability, dizziness, or generally out-of-focus feeling. Disappointingly but predictably so, they reach the conclusion that either binaural beats are not for them, or all talk about binaural beats and self-development is rubbish.
After studying these observations and talking to a few posters, I have drawn a few tips on how to make the experience of binaural-beat entrainment more pleasurable and enriching. Here they are:
Tip 1. First of all, if you are going in for brain entrainment to alleviate some physiological problem, consult your doctor first. At least, read up in detail on any research done that links the problem with a particular entrainment frequency. It just wouldn’t do to entrain an ADHD child to a theta wave!
Tip 2. If you are going in for brain entrainment to develop some aspect of your personality, again point 1 applies. See what frequencies best suit the end result that you are looking to achieve. If it is meditation and spirituality that you have in mind, then entraining to high beta or gamma is not the answer!
Tip 3. Focus on entrainment at frequency for one problem at a time. Don’t jumble them all together, for that will confuse the brain no end! Easy does it.
Tip 4. Decide on some metric that tells you whether you are on the right track with the entrainment. Say, if overcoming depression is the goal, then note your state of mind before the start of this “project”, and note also the state of mind you think you should have, in order to announce to yourself that the “project” has been successful.
Tip 5. Set a particular time and place for the entrainment session. Try to build the session into your daily schedule, and at such a time when other commitments and concerns won’t demand attention.
Tip 6. Before sitting for the entrainment session, spend about a minute or two in quiet reflection on the purpose of your session. What is the end result that you wish to achieve as a result of you entraining your brain thus? This focus prepares your mind to be receptive to the action taking place in your brain, and to align itself to your true desires so that they can manifest in your real life.
Tip 7. While the session is on, and if you are awake, silently contemplate on the end result. Since it is possible that the frequency at which you are entraining may lead to multiple results, your visualizing what you wish to achieve helps the mind to drive the brain and the entire body system towards this visualization.
Tip 8. Don’t overdo it! There are softwares in the market that can put a soundtrack in an infinite loop; so unless you press the STOP button, it continues to play. I have come across people who go to sleep with their headgear on; the soundtrack playing ad infinitum, and when they wake up, they feel groggy and “out of balance”. What is happening here is that the brain is being entrained to follow the same frequency for a very long period of time. And it so happens that – as the brain happens to be the coordination center for all action that takes place in your body, its “hands” are always full. The brain certainly doesn’t have the time to look into your particular problem for all day long, it has other things to do! But by forcing it to “dance to your tune” at only one frequency all the while, other activities get processed at a lower priority. You still live! But you get up groggy and “out of balance” …
Tip 9. Maintain a journal of your experience. Log all your feelings and experiences in the journal. This helps you to center yourself, and keep track of things in a more organized way. A student of mine who maintained such a journal could objectively see where she had come from, how far she had traveled, and where she was going, on her journey towards a stress-free life.
I am sure that if the above tips and tricks are followed, people will really be able to derive more benefit out of their entrainment sessions.
Since it is quite easy to produce binaural-beat CDs and entrainment softwares, the market is flooded with fly-by-night operators who use hi-falutin words of science, along with graphs and gimmickry to tout their wares. Beware! It is your brain that we are talking about, and you need to be careful before picking up just any CD from any site that you happen to stumble onto. Even if they offer it to you for free, or even if they pay you money along with the CD!
Science has not yet reached the stage where a website can remotely scan your brain and detect which frequency will be the best for you, and automatically direct you to the page where, for a price, you can download the desired entrainment session on your desktop. Till that stage is reached, do this: Research. And follow the tips above.
1. Lubar, J.F. & Deering, W.M. (1981). Behavioral approaches to Neurology. New York, NY: Academic Press.
About The Author:
Sanjay Agrawal is a Business Coach and self-development enthusiast. If you are really aren’t sure which specific binaural beat CD will do the trick for you, choose from one of the selections here – http://www.short10.com/?c=binbeats . The author has purchased 3 CDs from this site for different people (including himself), and has satisfactory results to report. (You may wish to look at his review of this product here – http://www.ciao.co.uk/binaural_beats_com__Review_5614251.)
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