Brain waves are a measurement of neural activity in our brain. Our brains produce several types of waves, so why are scientists and psychologists so interested in theta waves?
Before we delve into theta waves, let’s quickly explore the five types of brainwaves. When we perform certain actions the neurons in our brains communicate with each other in an electrical or chemical way. This activity can be measured in the form of frequencies or brainwaves.
5 Types of Brainwaves
- Gamma – Concentration, insight, peak focus
- Beta – Day-to-day, alert, learning
- Alpha – Relaxing, daydreaming, winding down
- Theta – Dreaming, flow states, meditation
- Delta – Deep sleep, restorative healing sleep
We produce gamma brainwaves at moments of peak performance, or expanded consciousness. Beta brainwaves are what we experience on a daily basis during our normal routine.
Alpha waves occur when we get ready for bed, or wake up in the morning, those moments of drowsiness. Delta waves are linked with the healing processes that come with very deep sleep. So what about theta waves?
What Are Theta Waves?
If you imagine each of our five brainwaves is a gear on a car engine, then delta is the slowest gear and gamma is the highest. However, theta is number 2, so it is still pretty slow. We experience theta waves when our minds wander off, we go on auto-pilot, we fantasize about the future, and when we daydream.
Examples of Theta Waves in Normal Activity
- Driving home from work and when you arrive, you cannot remember any details of the journey.
- Brushing your hair and you come up with an innovative idea to solve a problem at work.
- You are immersed in a task and you feel completely in the moment.
These are all theta waves in action. Theta waves occur in many situations. However, they are most associated with internal focus, relaxation, meditation and attaining a flow state of mind. Now, this is what makes them interesting to psychologists and scientists. Because if we can somehow generate theta waves ourselves, we can tap into all this potential.
Brainwave entrainment is a way of stimulating the brain to enter a certain state by using specific sounds, pulses or beats. When the brain picks up these pulses, it naturally aligns to the same frequency.
“Brainwave training is a relatively new research area, but more and more labs are interested in understanding brainwaves and how they relate to a whole plethora of behaviors—from managing stress to full-blown spiritual awakenings,” Leigh Winters MS neuroscientist, Columbia University’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute
Benefits of Theta Waves
So why would you want to make more theta waves in the first place? Here are ten reasons why theta waves are so beneficial:
- They relax the mind and body
- Increase creativity
- Empower learning skills
- Lower the heartbeat
- Improve problem-solving
- Hone intuition skills
- Better emotional connections
- Form a connection with our subconscious mind
- Program the unconscious mind
- Increase our spiritual connection
I’d like to focus on the first three benefits of theta waves.
If you are an anxious person prone to worry and stress, then being able to instantly calm and relax is very appealing. Imagine how it would feel to enter a tranquil state? Or how it would help you slip off to sleep when your thoughts are racing?
People with phobias, those with OCD, eating disorders, you name it. Anyone that feels anxiety or stress, if they had the chance of just feeling a little more relaxed, it could help free them from a restrictive behaviour.
“It seems to have a tranquillizing effect for individuals who are quite anxious and high-strung. It tends to quiet them down for three to four days after a session” Dr. Thomas Budzynski
There is evidence that suggests people who produce more theta waves report having more ideas and feeling more creative. In one study, students were wired up to a monitor to analyse their brainwaves whilst they were trying to solve a difficult problem.
It was discovered that “during the chance moment in which a difficult… concept suddenly ‘made sense’ (the subject) showed an abrupt change in brain wave patterns… in the theta range…”
So if you want to increase your creative output, the answer is simple, just learn how to generate theta waves.
One interesting aspect of theta waves is that they are generated when we are operate on autopilot. As a result, this gives us a chance for unbiased and uncritical learning.
What I mean by that is, we all have beliefs and opinions about ourselves that may be holding us back in some way. For example, we might think we are not good enough for college or university. That we don’t deserve to make a lot of money or we shouldn’t pursue a career in the arts for instance.
When we are in a theta wave state, all of these prejudices and concerns are absent. We see ourselves in an uncritical manner and this allows us to reach our full potential.
How to Make Your Brain Generate Theta Waves
It is not easy to generate theta waves yourself as it does take some amount of practice. There are some experts that suggest the best way is to listen to specially prepared music. These are binaural beats. Two slightly different ranges of hertz are played in each ear.
For example, if you play 410Hz in one ear and 400Hz in the other, your brain will align with the 10Hz frequency. Theta waves run from 4-8 Hertz. However, if you want to tackle one of the three areas listed above, there are different levels that target these areas.
- 5-6Hz – relaxation
- 7-8Hz – creativity and learning
“Theta activity was induced by a 6-Hz binaural beat. Moreover, the pattern of theta activity was similar to that of a meditative state.”
Use this method to entrain your brain to produce theta waves.
Focus on your breathing which will enable you to be in the present moment. Concentrate on the sounds around you and be aware of your surroundings. You can focus on an object or simply let your mind be still. If any thoughts come into your mind, let them drift away as you remain in the present. Feel a deep sense of relaxation, but don’t force it. You should not try and be calm, just be mindful and aware.
Researchers believe that training our own brains to produce the brainwaves we want is the next step in our evolution. Whatever your thoughts on the subject, it is surely a wonderful way of increasing our natural ability.