You may remember a blog post about alpha and theta waves and the flow state from a few months ago. This week we are revisiting those ideas, and diving more into how neurofeedback can help you shift into an alpha-theta dominant state throughout your day, week, month, and life. If you missed our last Alpha-Theta post, or don’t remember it well, you might be asking why you would want to go through life with your brain operating in an alpha-theta dominant way. First, let's review why this state is a great baseline way of living.
Alpha and Theta waves are responsible for flow states. Being in a flow state feels like you are fully immersed in an activity. It could be work, but people often experience it when they are doing a hobby. It could be dancing, painting, running, singing, cooking, or really anything you are doing.
Common characteristics of flow states include:
A sense of effortless action
A loss of self-consciousness
A merging of action and awareness
A sense of timelessness
A heightened sense of control
A feeling of joy and satisfaction
If you've ever been doing something and feel focused but also relaxed, are enjoying what you are doing, and things seem to come more easily, you are in a flow state. Most people have experienced being ‘in the flow’, and may even say that, or something like ‘I’m in the zone’. Not only do you feel better while you are experiencing a flow state, but they are also associated with increased creativity, productivity and overall well-being. Sometimes it even feels like a little person inside you has taken the reins, and your conscious thought isn’t running the show anymore. That is why being able to enter a flow state is also often associated with meditation practices, both still and moving (like yoga).
Who wouldn’t want to be able to snap into enjoyable, immersive focus which not only feels good but improves productivity and joy? Sign me up! Unfortunately, for most of us these flow states appear randomly, and not as often as we would like. Even for people who practice meditation it might take years of committed practice to get to a point at which they have the ability to avoid getting caught up in swirling thoughts, step out of the thinking mind, and approach things with a calm yet still immersed perspective. Luckily, here at Thrive we have a shortcut.
Alpha/theta neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that uses EEG to measure
brain activity. If you aren’t familiar with neurofeedback and how it works, check out our Deep Dive; How Does Neurofeedback Work blog posts.
The goal of alpha/theta neurofeedback is to train the brain to produce more alpha and theta waves, which are associated with relaxation and focus. Alpha waves are low-frequency (they move slower, so there are less waves per second), high-amplitude (the peaks and valleys are far apart, so they are ‘tall’) brain waves that are associated with relaxation and daydreaming. Theta waves are even lower-frequency, lower-amplitude brain waves that are associated with deep relaxation, meditation, and creativity.
When you are in a flow state, these brain waves are dominant. By training your brain to produce more of them, you are training your brain to step into a flow state more easily. Eventually, with enough training, it can become second nature to switch into this state of being.
Alpha/theta neurofeedback training involves using a computer to provide real-time feedback on a your brain activity. You is then guided to change their brain activity to produce more alpha and theta waves. Checking out our website and other blog posts will give you a good insight into the specifics of how this happens.
How Alpha/Theta Neurofeedback Can Improve Flow State
Now that you understand what alpha and theta waves are, you might be wondering how training these waves to be more prevalent leads to more flow states. It’s a fair question, as it might sound like having more of these waves would just make you daydream and relax all the time. This doesn’t sound like the productive, immersed, and focused state we describe when we say we are ‘in the zone’. There are actually a few ways in which alpha/theta neurofeedback can improve flow state.
First, alpha/theta neurofeedback can help to reduce stress and anxiety. As we discussed above, alpha and theta waves are closely associated with deep relaxation and meditation. It makes intuitive sense that having more of these brain waves creates a more relaxed state of mind. By being relaxed, you give yourself the space to feel safe, which allows your mind to focus, which is conducive to entering flow states.
Second, alpha/theta neurofeedback can help to improve attention and concentration. If you are feeling safe and relaxed, your body allows you to decide what you want to focus on rather than scanning the environment for possible dangers. In today's world, we are not usually at risk for being chased by a tiger, so the defense mechanisms your brain has developed over humanity's long past are no longer relevant. But, unfortunately it doesn’t know that. That is why you can get stuck in fight/flight mode, get very distracted by noises, movement, ect in the environment even when they pose no real risk. When alpha and theta waves are dominant, it is easier to stay focused on an activity and to avoid distractions. By avoiding distractions, and choosing what you concentrate on, you can also help to improve flow state.
Third, alpha/theta neurofeedback can help to increase creativity and problem-solving skills. If you run into an issue when doing activity, it can derail your whole train of thought or work process. But, if you have a heightened ability to be creative and problem solve, you can move through unforeseen issues with more ease. This means your flow is not interrupted, and you can continue on in your flow state.
How To Get Started
Our alpha-theta protocol is a great way to get started with neurofeedback. Everybody can benefit from having a brain that is more regulated and more able to call upon alpha and theta waves. As we described, they get you ‘in the zone’ to tackle whatever the day presents you with. It is also great for meditators or those who want to meditate, but have trouble starting. Because it relaxes you, it can help you think clearly about the outside world, but it can also help you be more aware of your own thoughts and feelings. Increased self awareness also contributes to overall wellbeing and is yet another benefit of doing alpha theta training. Another reason it is a great way to start with neurofeedback is that since it is universally beneficial to people, you do not need to get a brain map (for more information on what this is, check out our ‘What Happens At Your First Session’ blog, or the getting started page on our website). Skipping the brain map means you save 2 hours of your time, $400, and you get to start right away on your very first day in our center! Alpha Theta packages are also cheaper then other neurofeedback packages, so are a great way to get into neurofeedback a little more affordably. To book a 20 pack and get started today, click here!
Once you get started, sessions look similar each time. We will set you up in a treatment room where we prioritize comfort. We have humidifiers, essential oils, comfortable chairs, and blankets for you if you want. Some people also like to do this training seated on a meditation pillow. If you want to try that out let us know and we will grab you one. Once you are settled in, leads are placed on your head just as they are in other types of neurofeedback training. You will get headphones, which will play a pre recorded soundtrack designed to guide you into a meditative state. Occasionally, you might hear a bell or gong if the program senses your brain getting too close to sleep. How long you undergo training is up to you. You can stick to a normal 30 minute session, or do a double session which lasts about 75 minutes. Once you are done, we trust you will feel relaxed and grounded. The more you do this, the more you might notice the benefits we described earlier.
Some people have also found it helpful to do alpha theta training after using psychedelic medicines. Alpha theta training can help integrate the experiences the medicine provides. It also works the other way around, meaning that people doing alpha theta training can get even greater effects when they combine it with psychedelic medicine. To learn more about how microdosing psilocybin specifically works with neurofeedback, our ‘Mushrooms, Micro Doses Can Lead To Macro Effects’ blog is a good resource.
At the end of the day, getting alpha theta neurofeedback training here at Thrive Neurofeedback Center is a great way to get introduced to neurofeedback training in an accessible, yet highly efficient way. We have heard great feedback from clients who undergo this training about how it increased their meditation practice, focus at work and hobbies, and even improved their businesses by increasing problem solving and creativity. We can’t wait to see what it can do for you. Click here to claim your 20 pack of alpha theta training and get started today!