WELLNESS--There are five types of brain waves including Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. During a 24-hour period we move in and out of these different types of brain waves depending on what we are doing and what mental state we are in.
When we are awake and in a normal state of accomplishing tasks and moving around our brains are mostly in beta. When we receive acupuncture or practice meditation, our brains can go into alpha, delta, or theta. While we are in a deep sleep we are mostly in delta.
While predominantly in one wave, the other waves are also running in the background meaning one wave may be the primary wave we are experiencing, but the others are present and active in a low level. Theta is the wave we go into while in the deepest state of Zen meditation and is difficult to achieve intentionally without practice. That said, while we are coming out of sleep we are often in theta which is a great opportunity to lay still for 5 to 15 minutes upon waking to take advantage of this state and use it for creative purposes or to objectively review our day, week or life in general.
Scientists have discovered that during both meditation and while receiving acupuncture, peoples brain waves tend to move in the direction of alpha and theta.
Theta is that state that people sometimes go into while driving on the freeway and they suddenly notice they have gone 10 miles and can’t seem to remember how they got there. If that seems like an unsafe scenario, it’s not. The brain knows what state it needs to be in to accomplish the specific task at hand. If that same person were on a busier road or a road with potholes and intersections, the brain would not go into such a deep state of relaxation and would probably stay in beta.
This is one of the many reasons that people who live in big cities tend to have much higher stress levels. There is less of an opportunity for the brain to go into the more relaxed states unless one specifically makes time for meditation or treatments like acupuncture.
The brain changes when we allow it and assist it to go into these different types of waves. Science has now proven that the more time we spend in meditation either assisted through acupuncture or on ones own, the more brain communication begins to shift away from the “me” and more towards the whole.
For example, studies show that people who have a regular meditation practice worry less including about their health. When a stressed out non-meditator feels any type of bodily sensation that may be out of the ordinary; whether it be numbness or tingling or pain the immediate response is fear that something is wrong. When that same person has been meditating for a period of time studies show that the fear levels drop and a normal ailment is simply seen as something the body is going through.
There tends to be more of a separation between the body and the individual. Instead of “there is something wrong with me” it becomes “the body is experiencing something,” It moves away from fear and worry and more towards a neutral awareness. The argument can be made that this will lead to less stress and therefore less stress hormones that contribute to illness.
Finally, while we have now proven with science that the brain changes with meditation. This phenomenon called neuroplasticity can and does work in the other direction as well. It’s not very different from the person that goes to the gym every day for a year and gets in great shape. Then they stop working out for whatever reason, and the muscles become weak again. The same is true of the brain. With many years of meditation and spiritual practice, we can make enough gains that they wouldn’t all be lost if we stop practicing, the goal is to keep those parts of the brain strong so we don’t’ slip back into old outdated habits.
(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 310.909.6956 twitter: @CristianoWFR)