A little ditty about the electric currents in our skull goo. Written circa 2017
We are brilliant, fleshy computers constantly solving the algorithms of daily life. With electrical signals constantly running up, down and around our bodies, every thought and movement is powered by a change in concentration of ions in and outside of a nerve cell. Electrical signals passed through the brain travel in waves as neurons fire impulses one at a time. Ion concentration in and outside of the cell dictate the speed and magnitude at which these impulses fire. Humans, of course, found a way to quantify this phenomenon by attaching our meat machines to metal machines, better known as an EEG, which transcribes brain waves into neat little lines. Closer waves indicate faster firing. The higher up each waves goes on the graph, the higher the magnitude, or strength, of each impulse. This sets the framework for a lot of great research on how humans think and act, providing demystification of our own head’s happenings.
Brainwave science is tremendously complex and provides a link between processes and processing. Neuroscientists have made this stuff a bit more comprehensible to the average Joe by breaking down brainwaves into 5 different categories with names corresponding to letters from the Greek alphabet. When graphed out, these look like a bunch of peaks-and-valleys. The closer the wavelength, the more frequently the neurons are firing. Higher peaks indicate more synchronization of neurons firing at once. All of these types of brain waves can occur at once, but the most predominant wave acting at the time dictates which wave state we are operating under.
Here’s how they break down, from highest to lowest frequency:
· Binds sensory input with information processing
· Fully conscious thought
· Where we spend a majority of our waking hours
· Logical thinking/problem solving
· Blocks alpha activity
· Calm and relaxing
· Bridge between conscious and unconscious
· Semi hypnotic state
· Day dreaming/light sleeping
· Deep emotion
· Deepest levels of sleep
Researchers have studied this brain wave phenomenon and applied it to the science of Flowstate. A state of flow is achieved when operating in Alpha or between Alpha and Theta, thus walking the line between conscious thinking and the unconscious mind. This marvel is known as “transient hypofrontality” (Transient=not around very long, Hypo=not a lot of, Frontality=front of the brain). Altogether, this translates to a temporary absence of higher levels of thinking. This is when the brain cuts out the chatter and finds a balance between activity and awareness. Operating in an alpha environment, there is an increase in the body’s production of the organic chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine, which increase focus and imaginative possibilities, as well as endorphins and anandamine, which prompts lateral thinking by expanding the size of the database searched by pattern recognition.
By stripping away the analytical activity of the forebrain temporarily, we allow the mind to turn off superhighways of information typically used and explore the back roads of the mind. This is when revelations occur and problems are deeply and thoroughly hashed out in new and creative ways. Essentially, it is in this flowstate that we learn to learn better and be a more effective, authentic self.
Here’s where it really gets interesting: the brain and the breath work in tandem. As the breath lengthens and expands, so do the brainwaves. Slow down your breath, slow down your brain waves. Oxygen levels are also tied to the neurotransmitter, serotonin, which highly effects mood and anxiety levels. In proper amounts, serotonin fosters a feeling of alertness. Rising levels of serotonin are tied to unease and agitation. Slowing down the breathing decreases serotonin levels and push the mind towards relaxation. Adjusting the breath has a large effect not only on your neurological system (brainwaves), but your endocrine (hormonal) respiratory, cardiovascular and muscular system as well. Additionally, alpha states are also tied to an increase in immune function. Harness the breath and you’ll experience radical changes throughout every system.
To tap into your own creative, intuitive flow, tap into the breath. If you need inspiration, find inhalation. Your brain waves will literally slow, allowing you to access those corners of the mind that your beta waves are always blocking. Understand that you hold the power to change your body’s electrical charge with something as simple as a few deep breaths.