Oh, by the way, welcome to the resurrected blog. Or, if this is your first encounter with me writing blog posts, welcome in general. It seems 700 blog posts just wasn’t enough for me. I needed to write more, lol. Nah, not really. I just thought the newsletter format was too much to swallow all in one visit. So I’m breaking things up in lil’ chunks for you. I hope you like it. It may very well be more work for me, I don’t know, but at least I’ll have a chance to sleep again on the last day of the month!
I’ve been thinking about brain waves a lot recently, and it’s not just because I watch Superman II a lot (Lex Luthor creates a black box allowing him to read other people’s alpha waves), although admittedly I do. It helps me spend more time in an alpha wave state, which I find to personally be beneficial, as I spend a far greater amount of time in a beta brainwave state than what I would assume to be normal.
For an introduction to the bare basics, there are 4 basic classes of brainwave states, in order from highest to lowest frequency:
- Beta (focused, alert, busy, concentrating)
- Alpha (meditating, daydreaming, zoning out, watching TV, relaxation)
- Theta (sleep or nearly asleep)
- Delta (deep sleep)
As expected, our general hormonal state patterns our brain wave activity, and like many things in the body, seems to work in 2-way fashion. By 2-way fashion, I mean that you can change your brain wave state to alter your hormonal state, or if your hormonal state changes, your brain waves will change along with it.
For this article, we’ll focus on what we have greater control over–the conscious brain wave states of beta and alpha. Of course, calling something “beta” waves is like saying “loud.” There are many shades and intensities of loud. Beta brain waves are only classified by being higher frequency than brain waves that are “not beta.”
A better way to look at this might be to think of your brain activity, concentration, and thought intensity on a scale from 1-100, where everything over 10 is a varying shade of beta, and everything at 10 or below is the alpha wave state–something you might experience when in a state of deep relaxation with eyes closed. Most people are also in the alpha state while watching television, although I rarely am, as obnoxiously reciting the lines of the movie while watching prevents this.
I mean seriously, am I really just supposed to sit there quietly when Harry yells out to Woody and Natalia:
“Will you two come on?!”
I couldn’t if I tried.
So what’s the significance of brain wave activity and our health? I don’t think it’s a matter of foolishly calling one brain wave state “good” and the other “bad.” In fact, in my years of pondering this subject, my views about it are still inherently at odds with one another.
For example, the alpha wave state is synonymous with a reduced metabolic rate. The reduced metabolic rate experienced by television viewers (national average is supposedly four hours daily) is theorized to be one of the most substantial factors in the development of obesity. Yet, the high beta brain wave state is synonymous with a high-stress catabolic state, featuring elevated cortisol levels and reduced levels of DHEA.
Speaking in generalities, it seems the last things the citizens of the world need is more cortisol and less DHEA. However, the last thing we need is a reduction in metabolic rate and calorie burn from complete lack of physical activity including non-exercise physical activity (NEPA), also a primary point of focus for obesity researchers.
Like most things health-related, different brain wave states have effects, and those effects can be desirable or undesirable depending on who we’re talking about and how much. Just like the water issue, which I’m so well-known for surfacing, water can be a tremendous healing tool, or it can cause nasty health problems. Depends on the person we’re talking about as well as how much water is being consumed relative to other substances. To better put that into perspective, the organization where I learned of the harms of excess water ingestion was named “Heavenly Water.” The extreme positive and negative effects of water used inappropriately were well-understood there.
I think brain waves are the same. Many people are spending WAY too much time tuned out, avoiding active brain use, and suffering for it. Likewise, many people are thinking at very high intensity levels for many hours on end–creating unmanageable physical stress and great decline from the physical catabolism that excess mental activity can precipitate.
The key is to seek out and find your personal “medicine” for achieving a rebalancing act. For some people at some stages of life, it will be to do something creative, use the mind more actively, and read a frigging book instead of watching YouTube all day.
For others, meditation, breathing exercises, taking breaks from intense focus to lie down with eyes closed, or following some kind of brain wave entrainment or biofeedback routine will be more therapeutic.
What I know for sure on a personal level, is that I’m having to take a hell of a lot more breaks from concentrating so damn hard. My productivity levels have been off the charts for nine straight months, but it’s really catching up with me now. Things that lower the intensity of my brain waves and provide the greatest benefit are lots of walking, sunbathing, taking breaks to lie down and close my eyes, and yes, even I am suffering from 80’s movie deficiency. It’s really nothing that the Tom Hanks box set I just ordered can’t fix though. Worry not.
Matt Stone is an independent health researcher, author of more than 15 books, and founder of 180DegreeHealth. He is best known for his research on metabolic rate and its central role in many health conditions as well as his criticisms of extreme dieting. You can read more of his work in over 500 free articles on the site or in his books HERE.