Written By: Kevin Cann
One of the areas that we are constantly missing when addressing our health and wellness goals is our stress management. I have written about this numerous times and I hammer home this concept with my clients. This is very difficult for a lot of people for a number of reasons.
For one, meditating, or even just simply relaxing for a few minutes is very difficult. This takes a lot of patience and practice. What I have come to realize is that many people just will not put the time into managing their stress. What if there was another way?
A couple of weeks ago I submitted my article to Robb and Squatchy. Robb replied with a link to an iPhone app that he was currently using with some success. The company that produces this app is Banzai Labs and it is called Brain Wave – 32 Advanced Binaural Brain Waves. I went into the Apple Store and saw that it cost only $3.99 and I figured for that cheap of a price it is worth a try.
After using it for a couple of weeks, I have to say that I definitely have gotten my money’s worth. I have used it to improve energy, reduce stress and anxiety, as a pre-workout, and to help improve my sleep quality. This has worked so well for me that I have been recommending it to everyone in hopes of getting much more feedback.
In my head I was thinking that this must be too good to be true. I figured a big part of the success I was having with it was placebo. There is nothing wrong with that as I believe the placebo effect is a tool that is not used enough in health and wellness. However, I am a science guy and needed to see if there was any research backing the use of something like this. To my surprise there was a lot.
Brain wave alterations have been linked to mood disorders. This link is the basis for a lot of the neurological feedback therapies for psychology. Some of the brain waves that have been linked to mood disorders are alpha, beta, delta, gamma, and theta waves.
Yoga is a popular choice for some to help relax and one of my recommendations to my clients for stress management. Yoga can help people relax through a few different pathways. Yoga elicits a response from our parasympathetic nervous system, improves respiratory function, improves endocrine function, and also activates alpha brain waves (1).
Just like everything else in the human body, our brain waves need to be in balance. When they get out of balance is when we run into issues. Below is a summary of the five types of brain wave frequencies and their links to mood.
1. Too little results in ADHD, learning disabilities, and depression
2. Too much results in anxiety
3. When optimal, gamma waves improve our REM sleep and increase our cognitive abilities
1. Too little results in ADHD, depression, learning disabilities
2. Too much results in anxiety and high stress levels
3. When optimal, beta waves increase our focus, problem solving, and memory
1. Too little results in anxiety, OCD, insomnia (2)
2. Too much results in inability to focus and fatigue (3)
3. When optimal, alpha waves help us calm down and relax
1. Too little results in anxiety and stress
2. Too much results ADHD, depression, lack of focus, and impulsive behavior
3. When optimal, theta waves help us sleep and help increase our creativity
1. Too little results in an inability to sleep and recover
2. 2. Too much results in severe ADHD, inability to focus, and even brain injuries
3. When optimal, delta waves increase our deep sleep and our immune system (4)
These brain waves may play an important role in our consciousness. Research performed on monkeys showed that the high frequency brain waves (gamma and beta waves) were responsible for conscious thought and the lower frequency brain waves (alpha and delta) were responsible for thoughts in the back of our mind. When we start thinking about multiple things at once these patterns get out of harmony and negative things ensue (5).
As a strength coach I make sure to give people no more than 2-3 things to focus on at a given time. For example, when learning to squat I may focus on sitting back on the heels and driving the knees out in the beginning. Once they learn those pieces we can begin to add more stuff into it. This is much more effective than giving them every little detail all at once.
This makes sense when we look at how our brain wave patterns work together. They work in frequencies much like radios. Too much information at once is like too many people talking over the radio at the same time. It gets confusing and the message gets distorted.
This can also help to explain how the modern lifestyle can lead to mood disorders, poor energy levels, poor sleep and recovery, and declining cognition. We constantly have to juggle a large number of thoughts at all times. We are constantly completing tasks while worrying about everything else that is going on and everything else that we have to do in that given day. We never take a second to take a breath and calm down.
This brings me back to this app. This app is portable and can be downloaded right on your phone. It has specific blends of frequencies for different scenarios and different times of the day. I have used it to increase energy in the morning, concentrate on a given task, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep quality. Perhaps this allows us to drown out all of the noise that is not necessary and focus on a given task at hand as well as bringing us back to a natural balance.
I do have to say over the last couple of weeks my mood has been much more positive in spite of the ridiculous cold and snow here in Massachusetts. Our public transportation system has been highly unreliable, making me late to work and interrupting other commitments, all while leaving me outside in near 0 temperatures. I definitely have handled this much better than I would have a couple of weeks ago.
Has anyone else used a similar tool to help with their mood (if you have HRV numbers with it even better)? I plan on going much deeper into the research if people would like to hear more. Let me know.