Hypnosis results in an altered, trance-like state of consciousness, but what does that mean from a neurological perspective?
Brainwaves sound “new age.” Are brainwaves real and how are they used in medicine?
Brainwaves are electrical impulses in the brain that were first measured in humans by Hans Berger in 1924 using an electroencephalogram (EEG). Neuroscientists later discovered through EEG studies that brainwave patterns fall into five patterns that correspond to various levels of brain activity, ranging from being highly excited to deep sleep. Neurologists use EEG recordings routinely to diagnose brain health.
And what are hypnosis and hypnotherapy?
Hypnosis alters the brainwave state which has been demonstrated in neurological research. Hypnotherapists use hypnosis as a therapeutic tool to alter the brain’s state of consciousness, rendering it calmer, focused, and open to suggestion, fortunately, without the need for an EEG device! In the hypnotic state, a qualified hypnotherapist guides the patient toward behavioral changes that overcome anxieties and unhelpful mental habits. This article describes the relationship between brainwaves, their associated mental states, and hypnotherapy.
Hypnotherapy and Brainwaves
To determine which brain wave states yield optimal results, ask yourself, “What is my intention?” , “What do I intend to accomplish?” We all know through experience that certain brain wave states are more advantageous than others to reaching an immediate goal. To be certain of the goal and clear on intent then one can calibrate through hypnotic suggestion the most effective state of brain wave activity for the task at hand.
Let me break this down:
Brain Wave State: There are five major brain wave states commonly measured by electrical frequencies generated by neurons (brain cells), Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta. But science has discovered there are also brain cells in our gut and in our digestive system as well. How often do you find yourself saying: “I really want to accomplish this task—my mind says I have a deadline and my gut says—”there’s something not quite right here”, and maybe even your digestive system speaks up and says “I’m blocked nothing is getting through.”
Clearly, there is “dis-alignment” in the mind/body which may show up as anxiety, procrastination, stress, disrupted sleep, chronic or persistent pain and so on.
The bottom line: the goal is not achieved.
The solution is to align your thoughts through hypnotherapy techniques which trigger the actual electrical-chemical reactions in the brain and get the results you desire expressed through your body. It turns out that when this alignment is induced and the appropriate (for the task) brain waves are generated, we experience a condition known as “flow”. One way to think of flow is when you are “in the zone”, everything is clicking, you move seamlessly through your tasks, goals are quickly accomplished, stress is reduced, anxiety decreases, sleep is restored, and pain is diminished. The job gets done!
The clear advantage here is that by practicing hypnosis and experiencing hypnotherapy, goals are achieved without medications, without side effects, without sitting in waiting rooms waiting for your number to be called in order to have 15 minutes with a provider.
This Chart Explains the Goals of Hypnotherapy Practice as Related to Brainwaves
Key brain wave frequency states
Natural calibration vs. medication induced
These are involved in higher processing tasks as well as cognitive functioning. Gamma waves are important for learning, memory and information processing. It is thought that the 40 Hz gamma wave is important for the binding of our senses about perception and are involved in learning new material. It has been found that individuals who are mentally challenged and have learning disabilities tend to have lower gamma activity than average.
- Frequency range: 40 Hz to l00 Hz (Highest)
- Too much: Anxiety, high arousal, stress
- Too little: ADHD, depression, learning disabilities
- Optimal: Binding senses, cognition, information processing, learning, perception, REM sleep
Increase gamma waves: Meditation, hypnosis, stillness, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), light and sound therapy, personal coaching
These are known as high-frequency low amplitude brain waves that are commonly observed while we are awake. They are involved in conscious thought, logical thinking, and tend to have a stimulating effect. Having the right amount of beta waves allows us to focus on completing school or work-based tasks easily. Having too much beta may lead to us experiencing excessive stress and/or anxiety. The higher beta frequencies are associated with high levels of arousal. When you drink caffeine or have another stimulant, your beta activity will naturally increase. Think of these as being very fast brain waves that most people exhibit throughout the day to complete conscious tasks such as critical thinking, writing, reading, and socialization.
- Frequency range: 12 Hz to 40 Hz (High)
- Too much: Adrenaline, anxiety, high arousal, inability to relax, stress
- Too little: ADHD, daydreaming, depression, poor cognition
- Optimal: Conscious focus, memory, problem-solving
- Increase beta waves: Hypnosis, meditation, stillness, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), light and sound therapy, personal coaching, coffee, energy drinks, various stimulants
This frequency range bridges the gap between our conscious thinking and subconscious mind. In other words, alpha is the frequency range between beta and theta. It helps us calm down when necessary and promotes feelings of deep relaxation. If we become stressed, a phenomenon called “alpha blocking” may occur which involves excessive beta activity and very little alpha. Essentially the beta waves “block” out the production of alpha waves because we become too aroused.
- Frequency range: 8 Hz to 12 Hz (Moderate)
- Too much: Daydreaming, inability to focus, too relaxed
- Too little: Anxiety, high stress, insomnia, OCD
- Optimal: Relaxation
- Increase alpha waves: Hypnosis, meditation, stillness, regression therapy, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), light and sound therapy, personal coaching, alcohol, marijuana, relaxants, antidepressants
This frequency range is involved in daydreaming and sleep. Theta waves are connected to us experiencing and feeling deep and raw emotions. Too much theta activity may make people prone to bouts of depression and may make them “highly suggestible” because they are in a deeply relaxed, semi-hypnotic state. Theta has its benefits of helping improve our intuition, creativity, and makes us feel more natural. It is also involved in restorative sleep. If theta isn’t produced in excess during our waking hours, it is a very helpful brain wave range.
- Frequency range: 4 Hz to 8 Hz (Slow)
- Too much: ADHD, depression, hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattentiveness
- Too little: Anxiety, poor emotional awareness, stress
- Optimal: Creativity, emotional connection, intuition, relaxation
- Increase theta waves: Hypnosis, meditation, stillness, regression therapy, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), light and sound therapy, personal coaching, depressants
These are the slowest recorded brain waves in human beings. They are found most often in infants as well as young children. As we age, we tend to produce less delta even during deep sleep. They are associated with the deepest levels of relaxation and restorative, healing sleep. They have also been found to be involved in unconscious bodily functions such as regulating heartbeat and digestion. Adequate production of delta waves helps us feel completely rejuvenated after we wake up from a good night’s sleep. If there is abnormal delta activity, an individual may experience learning disabilities or have difficulties maintaining conscious awareness (such as in cases of brain injuries).
- Frequency range: 0 Hz to 4 Hz (Slowest)
- Too much: Brain injuries, learning problems, inability to think, severe ADHD
- Too little: Inability to rejuvenate the body, inability to revitalize the brain, poor sleep
- Optimal: Immune system, natural healing, restorative / deep sleep
- Increase delta waves: Hypnosis, meditation, stillness, regression therapy, light and sound therapy, sleep, personal coaching, depressants
Isn’t nice to know we all possess the ability to heal ourselves, accomplish our goals and enjoy life more fully!
For more information
Contact Ed Bostick, Hypnotherapist MPA, CCHt, NLP Practitioner at 303-351-2399.