Mindfulness: Generating Alpha Waves for Clarity and Focus

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Do you exercise control over your brain’s alpha waves? The more control you exert, the better will be your focus and clarity of thought.

Research confirms one way to generate alpha waves is through mindfulness meditation.

With the brain producing alpha waves people are less distracted by things going on around them, so they are more focused on the task at hand. Enhanced focus occurs as the alpha waves travel through the brain’s cortex where incoming sensory data is processed. The alpha waves filter our senses, blocking unnecessary input.

A researcher at MIT, Christopher Moore, Ph.D., said, “Our data indicate that meditation training makes you better at focusing, in part by allowing you to better regulate how things that arise will impact you.”

A Bit About Alpha Waves

People in an alpha state are in a light reverie. They are awake, alert, and detached but ready to engage. With brain waves at 9 to 14 frequency cycles per second, the autonomic nervous system slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the production of stress hormones, so the body relaxes.

In 1966, researchers found that Buddhist monks practicing mindfulness meditation had elevated alpha patterns coursing though their brains. More recently, investigators wondered if learning mindfulness would have the same effect on people who had never meditated.

The Research

Half of the research study participants were in a control group that did not meditate. The others were given mindfulness-based stress reduction training. While meditating, they were instructed to focus on certain areas of their body and be attentive to any physical sensations.

After eight weeks, participants had their brain waves monitored while concentrating on an area of their body (e.g., foot, hand). The participants who meditated demonstrated stronger alpha waves with more amplitude.

The research was conducted through Harvard, MIT, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

A Simple Mindfulness Exercise

Practicing mindfulness means focusing on what is occurring in the present moment. Here is a simple mindfulness exercise you may want to try.

  1. Take a deep breath and hold it as you count to five.
  2. As if you are fogging a mirror with your breath, exhale through your mouth to the count of five.
  3. As you exhale, notice the warm breath caressing your lips. Repeat.

Begin by doing this breathing practice for two to three minutes, and gradually increase your practice time.

Source: Brain Research Bulletin

Photo credit: DigitalBob8 / flickr

 
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