The human brain is undoubtedly a mind-boggling biological wonder that has been subjected to extensive research through science as well as philosophy, yet it is impossible to conclude that we have learned everything about it. Each day, as we delve deeper into the workings of the human brain, we learn new ways of using it to live better. Biological research has no doubt come a long way in the past few decades – we know more about how we can engage certain parts of our brain to work better and achieve higher productivity. A rather interesting area of brain research started with Robert Monroe’s discovery in the 1960s when he found that a part of the brain called the olivary nucleus begins to resonate in the presence of a binaural beat. This phenomenon is also referred to as brainwave entertainment.
What is a binaural beat?
A binaural beat is something we can only experience in our mind; it does not exist in our environment. For example, if we listen to a sound of 500 Hz in one ear and 520 Hz in the other ear, then our brain tends to hear the sound a frequency that is the difference of the two, i.e. 520 Hz – 500 Hz or 20 Hz. This frequency does not actually exist, but is specifically made for the purpose of binaural beat music. When the brain hears a binaural beat, researchers can measure something known as ‘bilateral synchronized brain wave activity’ at the same frequency as that of the binaural beat. It was Monroe who first discovered brain activity associated with binaural beats in a part of the brain called the olivary nucleus. This olivary nucleus, when it begins to resonate with the frequency of the binaural beat, sends signals to the cerebral cortex of the brain which mix with the existing brainwave patterns of the individual. This in turn leads to changes in the brainwave patterns – Monroe also later concluded that with certain binaural beats, he could in fact produce an altered brain state – a ‘unique and coherent’ state called hemispheric synchronization. Through neuroscience, we have conclusive proof that listening to binaural beats can alter the dominant brainwave and enable us to tune into EEG measured frequencies of alpha, theta and delta – all associated with different states of consciousness. For example, the alpha frequency brings about calmness and relaxation, while a delta frequency is associated with deep sleep. One can use binaural beats to significantly alter consciousness to bring about a variety of changes in thought and cognition as well as help with stress reduction, enhanced memory etc.
What are the benefits?
One can use binaural beats to change brainwaves and achieve specific states of consciousness. Some of the benefits of using binaural beats are:
Meditation – You can use binaural beats to meditate better. When you listen to beats created specifically for meditation purposes, your brain is in a low brainwave frequency, however your level of consciousness is extremely high. This has helped individuals to attain very deep levels of meditation as well, depending on how well they are able to use the beats to their advantage.
Relaxation – Binaural beats can force you into relaxation even if your body has the constant urge to keep moving and engaging in some activity or the other. Using frequencies that bring you into the alpha brainwave frequency, binaural beats are useful if you have trouble getting rest during the day.
Deep Sleep – Binaural beats that enable you to enter a state of consciousness associated with the delta brainwave frequency are the best if you wish to sleep better. Those experiencing sleeping problems such as insomnia, broken sleep, sleep apnea etc. can use binaural beats to overcome them.
Positivity of Thought – Music is often referred to as food for the soul. It does have a soothing effect on our mind by inducing feelings of happiness, relaxation and contentment. Those who use binaural beats swear by its effects. The feeling of happiness always leads to a new perception about life which is highly inspired and driven. You cannot help but look at the positive side of things.
Better Focus – Stress and work pressure are often reasons why we begin losing our sense of focus. Binaural beats are very useful in overcoming stress and while their main aim is to relax the individual, they help improve focus as well. A relaxed, stress free mind can think better and focus better than a mind which is bowed down by too much pressure.
Stress Reduction – No doubt if binaural beats can bring about relaxation and help with meditation, then they can be used for stress reduction as well. Binaural beats are perhaps the easiest, most cost effective way of reducing stress without any elaborate therapy sessions or medicines. Listening to these beats for just about an hour a day can reduce stress levels and bring more inner peace.
Pain Relief – There may not be any medical basis to prove that binaural beats can heal (yet), however those who have used binaural beats to bring change to their lives have found their headaches, migraines, arthritis, muscle tension and other ailments reduce by just listening to binaural beats. While the effect might not actually be healing, the brain activity associated with feelings of pain is definitely affected by alterations in brainwave frequencies.
Improved Memory – Binaural beats have also been found to improve memory, which again points to the fact that different frequencies of binaural beats affect different parts of the brain. Memory is greatly enhanced when the body and mind are more at peace rather than being caught up in unnecessary time crunches and tasks. An individual can improve concentration along with memory as well.
How can we use binaural beats?
Select a Recording – Binaural beats are all the rage these days and although they have been around for a while now, they have gained popularity as more and more binaural beat recordings are being made available for online downloads. For first-timers, it’s best to start with a pre-recorded binaural music track – you can find these online for free download, or even as CD sets which can be expensive at times. Try looking for binaural tracks on music sharing and video sharing websites such as Youtube as well. It’s a good idea to start with tracks created by a recording company that has had success in this area, such The Unexplainable Store. You can find plenty of options on their store for various purposes such as relaxation, meditation and memory. If you really like the whole idea of binaural tracks, then you can even create tracks of your own. But this is best done once you have learned the concepts and technicalities of creating binaural beats and heard as many pre-recorded tracks as you can find.
Have a Plan – Any activity that aims at a tangible result requires investing some time. Once you’ve chosen your binaural recordings, it’s time to create a plan for yourself. Why is this plan important? It is important because if you’re trying binaural tracks for the first time, then you will need to put in the effort to listen to them daily for maximum results. For purposes such as meditation, it’s advised to listen to binaural beats daily, yet it’s advisable to not use them more than twice a day. Part of your planning is to decide what time of your day will be dedicated to listening to binaural tracks. Also, you should consider investing in a good pair of headphones to get the maximum benefit out of the music.
Create an Ideal Environment – A quiet room with minimal distractions is what you need for a successful session with binaural beats. Once you have plugged in your headphones and found a comfortable position to sit in, do not let anything or anyone break your flow. Switch your cellphone off and eliminate any other potential sources of distractions (such as well-meaning family or roommates.) An ideal environment is one where you can enjoy your meditation or relaxation period without distraction. If you live alone, then interruptions in the form of people living with you can be minimized, but if you live with your family then finding the privacy and time for yourself is a task you must consider before starting. Without proper concentration and focus, even the best beats aren’t going to help you much.
Start Listening – Once you have set a time and place for listening to your binaural recordings, it’s time to start listening. You will need a CD or music player and a pair of good quality headphones to get started. Furthermore, you also need to find a comfortable position to sit or lie down in – it’s best to sit on a chair or a floor mat if you’re prone to dozing off while lying down. Keep the volume at a nominal level and focus on the music that is playing – you might find the entire experience uncomfortable and unpleasant to begin with, a lot of people feel this way, yet the important thing is to stick with it. You can choose to take breaks in between in the beginning if you wish, but don’t make it a habit. If you find your mind wandering, allow it – your brain will gradually enter a more relaxed state as you continue listening. The whole idea of listening to binaural beats is to discover the feelings and sensations that come along with the frequencies your brain hears. Don’t get flustered, instead enjoy whatever comes your way. Even though binaural beats help with relaxation much faster than conventional methods, it’s by no means a magic trick. Give it time.
Use it Consistently – Keeping at it is essential to getting some tangible results. If you’re using them for the first time, then listen to binaural tracks everyday and be consistent. It shouldn’t be something you do when you find time, it is something you need to make time for. Moreover, the results for each person vary because each individual’s brainwave pattern is different – you might get results in one go, or it might take some repetition. Either way, don’t give up too soon. Using binaural beats is extremely simple, yet the time and commitment involved is just about the same required for starting any new, healthy habit.