We Need More Alpha In Our Lives
One of the greatest things about the human body is how it runs so well on autopilot. Our heart beats, our lungs breathe, our neurons fire, and our hormones regulate protein production, all without our having to think about any of it.
The biological masterpiece that manages all these vital processes is the autonomic nervous system, or ANS. It has two main parts: the parasympathic and the sympathetic. Before discussing them, we need to talk briefly about the "control center" of the nervous system: the brain.
Brainwaves are electrical connections between individual neurons, of which the brain has literally billions. EEG (electric brain graph) readings measure the rate of repetition, or oscillation, of brain waves. The results are distinct frequencies corresponding to five particular waves:
We'll later look in detail at each of these separate waves. For our present purposes, we need to highlight only two: alpha and beta.
Alpha and Beta Waves
The parasympathetic is the domain of "rest and digest." Heart rate, breathing, and thyroid function all occur here, as do the alpha brain waves occur, corresponding to physical and mental relaxation. Sit comfortably on a warm beach as you watch the sun set over the water. That's an "alpha moment" par excellence.
Everything works better when we're in alpha
On the other hand, there is the sympathetic part of the ANS. This is the domain of consciousness and activity, responding to stimulus. "Fight or flight" responses predominate, corresponding to the beta brain waves. And, this is where most people spend their lives.
When the sympathetic nervous system is overactive, then there is less opportunity for the parasympathetic to do its job. Think of a pie cut disproportionately. Concretely, if you're anxious and worried, your heart beats faster and your rate of breathing increases and becomes shallow. These are just two perceptible consequences. What about the many effects we can't perceive?
So, the search for balance is a quest for coherence: more alpha, less beta. Everything works better when we're in alpha (i.e., the parasympathic mode). Studies show that when we're calm, all therapies are more effective, because they are better received by the body. This applies to such varied things as nutrition, where absorption is improved, to acupuncture, and even to emotional therapies. Think about it: the same trickle of water that seeps into dirt (parasympathetic) just flows over rock (sympathetic).
Bottom line: everything works better when we're in alpha. And, guess what puts us there?
That's right: infrared frequencies!
- Melody Besner