Brain alpha waves are a type of brain frequency that signals that your brain is in a wakeful state of resting. This means that you are at peace whilst not being asleep, which involves a different pattern of brain waves. Many of us never reach a place where we activate brain alpha waves due to our busy and stressful lifestyles. Studies have indicated that in order to activate brain alpha waves we need to be doing an activity that we find both enjoyable and calming. This allows brain activity to settle from a chaotic brain-wave pattern into a more harmonious and synchronous brain alpha wave state.
One of the best activities we can do to activate brain alpha waves is mindfulness meditation. The health benefits of mindfulness meditation are extensive and can arguably be attributed to reaching a brain alpha wave state. These benefits include reduced rates of depression and anxiety, lowered blood pressure, increased ability to deal with stress, improved sleep, reduced addictions and cravings, improved memory and concentration, and overall improved mental and physical performance.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation combines two concepts – that of the art of being mindful and that of meditation. Mindfulness involves paying attention each moment to things as they are, with an open hearted and non-judgemental attitude. This is a process of observing thoughts, emotions and sensations as they come and go, with an attitude of curiosity and acceptance.
Mindfulness is more than learning to pay attention – it also implies cultivating an attitude of openness, interest and acceptance. When we fight with the thoughts and feelings we would rather not be having we actually feed them with more attention and increase the impact that they have. So learning to notice them and be non-reactive and non-judgemental of them is an important aspect of learning to be free of them.
Mindfulness can be applied to experiencing everyday activities such as eating, walking, washing the dishes and having a shower. Practising mindfulness can help us to be less caught up in stress, worry and low mood by helping us to develop a greater capacity to engage in our lives by being more fully present. Mindfulness is a skill that can be developed with practice over time.
Combining the skill of mindfulness with the regular practice of meditation essentially involves intentionally placing our attention on the breath, and observing each rise and fall of the breath. It is natural that our minds will not stay aware of the breath for very long. The mind will inevitably wander off and soon we will be thinking or planning or worrying. The practice of mindfulness is to be aware when our attention has wandered, and then, without judgement, gently but firmly redirecting our attention back to the breath.
At the beginning of practice it is likely that our minds will wander many, many times. While this can be frustrating, it is important to remember that the moment that we are aware that our mind has wandered, we are practising mindfulness. Then we simply return our attention to observing the breath, again and again and again.
Dr Cris Beer
Holistic Medical Doctor