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What is an Alpha Brainwave?

By Charles Hopkins Published 01/17/2007 | Health

When discussing the varying electrochemical processes that occur in the brain, we often thing in terms of brainwaves. The Alpha brainwave is generated when the individual is in a conscious but relatively relaxed condition. Physical activity is at a minimum and while thought is taking place, it is not characterized by attempts to apply information to a task or solving a problem. The Alpha state usually follows a period of Beta activity in which the individual as been engaged in a task such as speaking or performing a task that required a high level of concentration.

There are a number of waves to achieve an Alpha state. One that seems to work very well for many people is listening to music or other recorded sounds that seem to soothe us after stressful activity.  Researchers have found that different types of music have the effect of calming us, allowing us to slip into a state where we are still aware of our surroundings, but do not actively seek to engage them. 

Yoga and meditation techniques are also said to induce an Alpha state. By having us focus on something other than the external world, our minds are freed from distractions, which result in a calmer state. Many people can attest to the rejuvenating aspects of both these activities. Part of the reason one does achieve such a sense of rest and good feeling from yoga or meditation is the fact that they were able to remain in an Alpha state for an extended period of time.

Breathing exercises are also understood to help a person achieve an Alpha state. Used for many years as a way to get persons who were overly excited to calm down, the breathing exercises help the brain to shift gears away from high Beta activity into the quiet of Alpha activity. Often this can help someone regain perspective after being upset.

Short breaks during the workday can help us to achieve an Alpha state that will provide us with enough refreshment to continue our day.  As an example, getting away from your desk and going to sit outside on a park bench can easily result in achieving an Alpha state for a few moments. Even pulling back from your desk and looking out of the window for am moment can help bring a little Alpha brainwave activity into your Beta day.

The Alpha state, since it is characterized by relaxation, is a natural step in the process toward achieving sleep. When we retire for the evening and our minds begin to clear of the clutter, we enter the Alpha state. The more our minds relax, the sooner our bodies follow suit and we slip into other brainwave patterns that will help us get the recuperative rest we need in order to function properly when we are awake.

If you would like to learn more about Alpha brainwaves, in particularly ways you can achieve an Alpha state, check out some of the material available on the Internet. You may find that many of the activities that are connected to Alpha brainwave activity are ones that you already enjoy a great deal.