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Many of you will recognize the title of this article. I have borrowed it from Dr. Daniel Amen who has popularized his book and program on Public Television. Parenthetically, I trained with him for the treatment of Attention -Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder.

This brief article does not borrow in any way from Dr. Amen’s writings other than his catchy title. What follows are mainly my personal experiences.

There are many contemplative and meditative practices that will change your brain. These include YOGA, Mindfulness, Deep Breathing, and Mechanical Aids. But the underlying mechanism in any approach in changing your brain is managing your brain waves.

BRAIN WAVES

As humans, we have five distinct brain wave frequencies. They are Beta (12-38 Hertz (Hz) or cycles per second); this is what most of us live in most of the time. It occurs when we are alert, busy, thinking, focused, and excited or anxious. Brain waves are oscillating electrical voltages in the brain measuring just a few millionths of a volt.

When we take the time to relax deeply and completely, we change our brain waves to Alpha (8-12 Hz). Is this not wonderful?! We can change our brains by changing our brain waves. In Alpha we are calm yet alert; we are awake, but our minds are resting; healing occurs. Quieting our minds takes persistence and practice.

When we relax even more deeply, we move into Theta (4-8 Hz). In Theta, new and creative thoughts emerge; we gain entry into our unconscious minds allowing both richness and troubling memories and emotions to surface. Theta, like Alpha, requires energetic balancing of deep relaxation with keen alertness.

The rewarding aspect of Alpha and Theta is simply that the more we visit those states, the more they will stay with us throughout the day. What stays with us is greater tranquility, insight, stress reduction, better sleep, improved self-esteem, and increased self-awareness. This is a big return for a small investment of time.

Once we are in Theta we readily slide into Delta (. 4-4 Hz) which is sleep. The more we acquire being at peace with ourselves, everyone else and everything else, the sounder we sleep. Sleeping rejuvenates us while strengthening our psychoneuro-immune system and promoting healing.

The final brain wave state is Gamma (35-80 Hz), which we enter when we concentrate or focus very deeply due to stress or high motivation. We can increase our ability to produce highly desirable levels of gamma waves by meditating daily and deeply. Daniel Goleman at www.bigthink.com states that “Olympic Level” meditators are in gamma virtually all the time. They experience a 700-800% increase in compassion. They live in liberation from Beta level anxiety and experience enlightenment. Visit www.sinhaclinic.com.

People gifted with high IQ’s are in Gamma more readily and frequently. While in Gamma we:

  • Improve our cognitions and problem-solving abilities.
  • Experience help with information processing.
  • Increase our memory.
  • Increase our attention span.
  • Increase our awareness and mindfulness (Being nonjudgmental).

As mentioned above, we boost our Gamma by meditating. Research shows that a minimum of nine weeks with at least 13 minutes of daily meditation is required. I highly recommend meditating twice daily. First thing in the morning and before dinner or bedtime in the evening.

RECAP

Each of our brain waves are needed and important. Yet, most of us live in Beta which is where we experience anxiety, ambivalence, procrastination, and countless other undesirable states. This is akin to having a five-gear shift in an automobile but only using one gear. We change our lives, our perspectives, our cognitions when we are able to fluidly shift into Alpha, Theta, Delta, and Gamma.  

A 2016 study found that longer-term meditation practice was associated with structural changes of the “white matter” in the brain which is responsible for “relaying sensory information and can help explain why meditation helps people stay in the present moment and may help combat age-related cognitive decline. See www.fortune.com2023/02/11.

Changing our brains makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning as we are able to dismiss negative or limiting thoughts as quickly as they arrive. Replacing them with positive affirmations changes our views of life, the world, ourselves, and others.

For those of you who limit yourselves by saying “I can’t meditate. I have too many intrusive thoughts,” I recommend reading Just Sit: A Meditation Guidebook for People Who Know They Should but Don’t by Elizabeth and Sukey Novogalz. It’s an enjoyable read.

Change your brain, change your life.

Dr. Jim David is a retired psychotherapist in Silver Spring. Visit www.askdrdavidnow.com for free, printable mental health newsletters and handouts. Email at [email protected]

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Dr. Jim David is a retired psychotherapist in Silver Spring. Currently busy with personal, spiritual and executive coaching.