What are Brain Waves and How Can We Change Them with Meditation

Table of Contents

Our brains are a constant hub of activity, neuron’s firing to neurons, keeping all our mental activities and bodily function that we take granted working like clockwork.

When different brain regions, for example, the prefrontal cortex, begin to fire their neurons in synchronicity, this is called ‘neural oscillation’ or ‘brain waves.’

Using EEG machines, we can measure the brain’s electrical activity and see what’s going on in a unified way.

We can then use this information to discover which types of brain waves correspond to different mental activity levels and learn how to provide insight into our moods, energy, and thoughts both consciously and subconsciously.

What are the 5 Types of Brain Wave

Delta waves

Delta waves are brain waves that occur when you are in a deep sleep.

The electrical activity in the brain reaches its slowest point, which means that it takes the longest to reach its peak but the quickest to come out of.

Delta waves usually fall in your deepest sleep stages. These waves take place during stages 3 and 4 of non-REM sleep, which vary depending on what is happening to your body at that point in time.

meditation and brain waves - Delta wave

Theta Waves

Theta waves occur when we are dreaming and when we are in a deep practice of meditation.

They are among the slower frequencies in the brain and reflect rest periods, reduced activity, and contemplation.

When these waves become very active, it is a sign that your frontal lobe is reducing its brain activity, and your long-term memory is being shut down to make space for short-term memory.

If you have theta brain wave activity and cannot remember what you’re doing, this could be the cause of your forgetfulness.

meditation and brain waves - theta wave

Alpha

Alpha waves are the dominant brain oscillations seen in someone who is awake but relaxed.

This state of being is also known as alpha state, an awake but relaxed mind which makes it easier to focus on tasks without becoming distracted.

Alpha waves have a calming and relaxing effect on the human brain, making them great for relaxation before an event or meeting when mental clarity is needed.

meditation and brain waves - alpha wave

Beta

Beta Waves are the second most dominant brain wave that we produce and occur when we are in a state of alertness. Beta waves usually happen when we pay attention, concentrate on something, or learn something new and interesting.

Beta Waves are active when problem-solving tasks require a lot of mental energy, even if they don’t take very much physical energy to execute.

If you’re doing a mental puzzle when you’re stressed about something else in your life, beta waves can be the thing that saves you from giving up.

meditation and brain waves - beta wave

Gamma

Gamma waves are our fastest form of brain wave and are present in the brain when we are awake and alert, but they disappear during sleep or when we’re not thinking.

The most critical role that gamma waves play is in memory functions like retrieval from long-term memory storage or encoding of new memories into long-term storage.

Gamma waves are more present in the brain’s cortex and are involved in higher-level functions like attention, which indicates that they are very valuable for attaining focus.

This is why it is common that people who experience headaches after their migraines have trouble focusing on their work or have difficulty concentrating.

meditation and brain waves - gamma wave

Can Meditation Affect our Brain Waves?

Yes, with the use of EEG machines and other brain wave sensors, a variety of meditation methods have been proven to change and direct our brain waves.

Due to recent advancements in technology, we are now able to study the effects of various meditation techniques on our brain waves. The benefits of meditation vary, depending on the meditation technique you are practising.

For example, most forms of open awareness meditations like mindfulness or body scanning will lower your brain waves to a relaxed Delta state.

Focused attention meditation such as mantra or breath awareness will raise your brain waves to the higher Alpha range.

Deep meditation techniques like Yoga Nidra or hypnosis will bring your brain waves down into theta ranges, where they will slowly fall over time, leading you into a state akin to a dreamless sleep.

It is important to understand how brain waves work during meditation and when you practice your preferred meditation technique.

meditation and brain waves - eeg machine
EEG machines are used to record brain waves

How Can I Increase My Alpha Brainwaves

By practising focused attention based meditations, we can increase our Alpha waves and reach a relaxed but alert state of mind. 

Research has shown that your alpha waves increase with regular meditation. Training attention and concentration to strengthen these brainwaves will make them easier to invoke in daily life.

Focused based meditation is a practice that requires you to focus all your attention on one object or bodily sensation, such as the breath, a mantra or the body’s sensations.

The benefit of increasing alpha waves is that it will help you to achieve an altered state of mind where you are in the present. This may be useful for many reasons, such as increasing self-awareness and reducing stress.

As people progress, they will find their concentration becomes stronger and their alpha waves longer lasting.

Key Facts

  1. Brains waves occur when the signals being sent between neurons synchronise and form a pattern.

  2. There 5 types of brain waves; Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta and Gamma.

  3. Different brain waves correspond to distinct mental activity levels.

  4. We can directly affect our brain waves by practicing meditation.

  5. The brain waves you want to promote depends on the different meditation technique you are practising.

  6. Focused attention meditation techniques are useful for promoting Alpha waves, creating a relaxed but focused state of mind.