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Alpha Brain Waves

Are you curious about Alpha brainwaves and their effect on your mind, mood, and health? Would you like to discover how to harness the power of brainwaves for reducing stress, increasing creativity, or mitigating pain?

This article gives a comprehensive overview of: 

  • The function of Alpha brainwaves
  • What the Alpha state tell us about our minds
  • The many benefits of entering Alpha brainwave states
  • Exactly how you can induce and control Alpha waves to maximize these benefits

Alpha waves are well-researched and understood by science. Many studies, along with countless personal testimonies, validate the benefits of learning to control Alpha waves. These benefits include:

  • Lowering stress levels
  • Boosting creative thinking and problem-solving capacity
  • Controlling symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Maximizing physical and mental performance
  • Reducing physical pain

Sound good? If so, read on and learn all about Alpha waves and exactly how you can stimulate these powerful and beneficial brainwaves states.

Alpha Brainwave Meditation - 10 Hz

What Are Alpha Brainwaves?

Think of the feeling you have when you first wake up while on a relaxing vacation. Just as you open your eyes and your mind is calm, centered, and free of unwanted thoughts, your brain is most likely in an Alpha brain wave state. 

You may also be familiar with the feeling of the Alpha state of consciousness if you meditate, practice mindfulness, engage in aerobic exercise, or enjoy daydreaming. Alpha brain waves produce a wakeful, open, and relaxed awareness where sensory inputs from the external world recede, and peaceful, inner awareness takes over. 

Alpha waves oscillate in the frequency range of 8 and 12 Hertz, inducing physical and mental relaxation, openness of mind, and a peaceful twilight experience, hovering between the subconscious and conscious states of being.

When Alpha wave oscillations dominate our brain’s activity, we are calm, awake, and at ease without feeling sleepy or intensely focused on a task. With the right techniques and training, you can induce these tranquil mind-states when you need them the most.

The states of consciousness produced during Alpha have many positive benefits. For example, one of the effects of stimulating these brain frequencies is a uniting of your conscious and subconscious minds.

The strengthening of the connection between these two parts of consciousness might explain why the Alpha state is connected to creative bursts of energy, experiences of insight, problem-solving, and the “Ah-ha!” moments of self-discovery.

The Discovery of Alpha Waves

Alpha waves are named for the first letter of the Greek alphabet because these were the first type of brain waves discovered by neuroscientist Hans Berger in the 1920s. Berger also invented the EEG machine, which is now extensively used for detecting and researching brainwaves of all types.

Alpha waves are one of about six types of brain waves scientists have discovered along with Theta waves, Gamma waves, and Beta waves. Each of these brainwave states indicates a dominant frequency resonance happening between the neurons in our brains.

Beginning in the 1960s, Alpha waves became popular with the invention of biofeedback machines. These machines allow a person to see their brain wave activity displayed on the screen of an oscilloscope.

Watching this visual neurofeedback gives the person instant information about their state of arousal and brain activity, allowing them to learn to consciously control their brain waves and enter an Alpha state at will.

However, there are many other ways of inducing Alpha waves, including through the use of binaural beats and by listening to brainwave music.

What Alpha Waves Indicate about Our State of Mind

People who meditate often seek the calming realms of Alpha consciousness. When the brain resonates at these frequencies, our minds become genuinely open to the deep intuitions of our subconscious as well as the insights and problems-solving capacities of our conscious mental processes.

You may have heard of the term ‘flow state’, meaning a mental and emotional state-of-being where you become completely immersed and focused on what you are doing without feeling stressed or anxious. The flow state, or "being in the zone", is closely associated with Alpha brain waves.

By learning to produce Alpha waves when you want them, you can capture the many benefits of these feel-good brain wave states.

The Benefits of Increasing Alpha Activity 

Some of the most important ways you can benefit from Alpha brainwaves include:

  • Reducing Stress Levels and Improving Mood

Inducing Alpha waves can help you reduce stress levels and elevate your mood. When our minds are anxious and overworked, the electrical frequencies in our brain can become stuck in Beta waves. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with Beta waves, and they have a positive purpose at the right time.

However, when your brain becomes trapped in Beta waves, your stress level skyrockets, reducing your performance and mental clarity. Inducing an Alpha brain wave state is one solution for too much Beta and the anxiety that can accompany it.

  • Boosting Creativity and Problem Solving Ability

Researchers who study brain waves also see Alpha waves when a person is thinking in creative and novel ways. If you enjoy creative expression of any type, learning to induce Alpha states can give you an edge on reaching your full creative potential.

In one study done at the University Of North Carolina School Of Medicine, researchers found a 7.4 percent improvement in creative thinking in adults who were exposed to 10 Hertz electric impulses in their brains.

  • Improving Physical and Mental Performance

Researchers also observe Alpha waves just after a person engages in aerobic activity and when training for high-performance athletic events. The so-called “runners high” experienced by marathon runners is associated with Alpha states of consciousness.

Similarly, when golfing champions are just about to hit a perfect shot, researchers note a burst of Alpha waves briefly occurring in the person’s brain.

By learning how to get your brain into an Alpha frequency, you can improve both your physical and mental performance.

  • Reducing Depression and Anxiety

Neuroscience researchers have found that Alpha waves can be useful for people who experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions, including major depressive disorder (MDD). Researchers find that these psychological disorders are strongly associated with a lack of Alpha activity in the brain of the sufferer.

By inducing Alpha waves using biofeedback or by listening to binaural beats and isochronic tones, depressed patients often find significant relief from their depression symptoms. Some in the brain research community speculate that the cause of depression might be a deficiency of Alpha waves, particularly a lack of these brain waves occurring in the left frontal cortex of the brain.

Also, Alpha waves appear to increase levels of serotonin, a critical neurotransmitter chemical linked to mental health. Balancing serotonin levels is also essential for anyone healing from psychological trauma, and Alpha wave stimulation can be a safe and straightforward way of achieving this without the use of medications with potentially unpleasant or dangerous side-effects.

Given that depression is among the most common types of mental health problems, finding an inexpensive, non-invasive, and reliable method for controlling symptoms holds great promise for helping many people.

  • Pain Reduction

Researchers also have discovered that Alpha brain wave states can have a significant impact on the perception of symptoms in people who suffer from chronic pain. Because Alpha waves produce a diffused and relaxed experience, they seem to redirect a person’s attention away from the sensations of pain and toward a more peaceful and pain-free awareness.

Examining the power of Alpha waves to reduce feelings of physical pain was the goal of a 2015 research paper published in the Journal of Neuroscience called ‘Attention Drives Synchronization of Alpha and Beta Rhythms between Right Frontal and Primary Sensory Neocortex.’ This study showed a statistically significant decrease in the perception of chronic pain in the test participants when they learned to induce Alpha waves.

  • Boosting Immune Function and Physical Health

Our immune system is the guardian of our health, keeping pathogens at bay and protecting us from infections of all types. The immune system involves complex interactions between our body, mind, and the external environment, and researchers have known for many years that our mind can activate our immune response.

Therefore, it’s not too surprising that we can give our immune system and physical health a boost by getting our brains to spend more time relaxing and rejuvenating in Alpha frequencies.

A recent study done at Harvard University by Dr. James E. Stahl confirms these observations. During Dr. Stahl’s study, participants spent eight weeks using a variety of relaxation techniques at home each day. Being relaxed is associated with an increase in the production of Alpha waves.

A year later, the researchers found that the people who used the relaxation techniques had an average of 43 percent fewer trips to the doctor and emergency room than participants who did not practice the relaxation methods.

How to Activate Alpha Brainwave Frequencies

There are many ways you can induce and increase how much time your brain spends in Alpha, including:

  • Meditation and mindfulness practice

For many people who take up meditation and mindfulness practice, getting into an Alpha brain wave pattern is the goal, whether they are aware of this or not.

  • Yoga

Yoga practice also calms and balances the mind and nervous system, producing an abundance of Alpha brain waves.

  • Aerobic exercise

Alpha waves often happen during and immediately after aerobic activities, such as jogging, speed walking, swimming, and dancing.

  • Visualization exercises with eyes closed

When you close your eyes and engage in positive thinking and visualization, your brain begins producing Alpha waves. Once you open your eyes, the Alpha frequencies decrease significantly.

  • Deep breathing exercises

Taking long, slow, deep breaths while focusing your awareness on your breathing is another reliable way of attaining the Alpha brain wave state.

  • Listening to Alpha wave binaural beats, isochronic tones, and brain wave entrainment music

One of the most reliable and fastest methods of activating Alpha waves in your brain is by listening to binaural beats and brainwave entrainment music using stereo headphones. Just be sure to choose a soundtrack explicitly designed for the stimulation of Alpha frequencies. 
You can also combine any of these techniques for increasing Alpha waves. For example, you can listen to Alpha binaural beats while practicing meditation, doing yoga, or breathing deeply for an enhanced effect.