The Hypnotic Effect of Music, Yoga, Movies and Motorcycles
Why is it that a certain song can bring back a really big memory? Have you ever worked out a major problem during a yoga session? Why do movies make us so emotional? Does a long drive in the car or a ride on a motorcycle help “clear your head”? Does going for a lengthy run or spending time at the gym make the day seem a little better? Why does inspiration come in the shower or on the drive home?
The answer to all these questions is held within the intricate operation of the human brain. All of our brains operate on four ranges of electrical frequency. These frequencies are the varying states of consciousness and unconsciousness that we experience throughout each day. Neuroscientists apply Greek letters to each of our human brainwave states—beta, alpha, theta and delta. Beta is the common waking brainwave state. It’s the one you are likely in while reading this article. There’s a lot to the beta state, but basically if you’re alert and awake, you’re probably operating in beta, which is between 14 and 30 hertz (cycles per second). The higher levels of beta brainwaves are typically associated with stress and anxiety.
At the opposite end of the brainwave spectrum is delta. Delta brainwaves—from 1 to 3 hertz—are the waves when you are deeply asleep. Delta waves are the deep, dreamless sleep waves necessary for proper healing, learning and memory.
While most people think they are either awake or asleep, in between those states are two very important brainwave states. Found between 9 and 13 hertz are the alpha brainwaves. This is where the brain goes when keenly focused. Within alpha are the moments where we daydream, pray, get “in the zone” as an athlete, or practice meditation.
This alpha state of focus, or light trance, is the place where movies take the brain. When we become focused on a movie, we are drawn into the emotions of the story. This happens when the brain focuses intently; the brainwaves shift into the alpha frequencies, and the emotional center in the subconscious mind opens up. Beyond the alpha waves are the brainwaves of theta. Found between 4 and 9 hertz, these waves are experienced during extreme focus. Hypnotists can help people achieve these states in order to modify perceptions, beliefs and misinterpretations.
When a familiar song comes on the radio, our brain can dip from beta (awake) into alpha (light trance) to retrieve a memory from a time we previously heard the song. This quick shift between frequencies occurs many times throughout the day. If you’ve had the experience of daydreaming while watching the ocean waves, then you’ve felt that subtle shift from a beta state to an alpha or even theta state. These shifts can sometimes be identified by the “time shift” that occurs. Time shift is the loss of ability to track time while in an alpha or theta state.
Athletes, runners and yoga practitioners sometimes experience an awake drift into an alpha state. This move to a light state of trance is often described as being “in the zone.” When an athlete is so practiced in their sport that they don’t have to think about how to manage every tiny detail, then the brain can transition into being in the more focused and relaxed alpha state. This is also experienced by writers, artists and musicians that feel a certain “flow” when deeply focused on their particular craft.
Even taking a warm shower can shift the brain from the awake beta state to the more peaceful alpha state. If you’ve ever had an inspiration strike while in the shower, this is likely because your more powerful subconscious mind is more easily accessed while in the alpha and theta states brought on by the relaxing and familiar warmth of the shower. Beverly explains that purposefully shifting your mind to alpha or theta states can help bring resolution to challenges when it is done in the right way.
There’s an old saying among motorcycle riders that “you never see a motorcycle parked outside of a psychologist’s office.” While the saying is tongue in cheek, it highlights the benefits of spending time deep in thought in the alpha and theta states. Achieving and practicing those brainwave states seems to come with some real benefits for overall mental health.
Read the Article in Natural Awakenings Magazine