According to a Swedish proverb: “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” How much relief would we feel if we could package our worry or anxiety in a tidy, compact area of our being and leave it there? Unrealistic perhaps, but the ability to escape and improve our moods may be just outside our doors.
In the 1920’s Hans Berger, a German physiologist/psychiatrist, invented the EEG [electroencephalogram]. The device is recognized as “one of the most surprising, remarkable, and momentous developments in the history of clinical neurology.” Basically, this invention reveals, “at the root of all our thoughts, emotions and behaviors is the communication between neurons. Brain waves are produced by synchronized electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other.”
“Brain waves are divided into five different bandwidths that are believed to create a spectrum of human consciousness. Our brain waves change throughout the day and are part of a feedback loop that is influenced by what we are doing, thinking, and feeling emotionally at any given time–or while we sleep.”
Delta waves are the slowest brain waves and occur primarily during our deepest state of dreamless sleep.
Theta waves occur during sleep but have also been observed in the deepest states of Zen meditation. This is where REM (rapid eye movement) sleep-the dream state occurs.
Alpha waves are present when your brain is in an idling default-state typically created when you’re daydreaming or consciously practicing mindfulness or meditation. Alpha waves can also be created by doing aerobic exercise.
Beta waves typically dominate our normal waking states of consciousness and occur when attention is directed towards cognitive and other tasks. Beta is a ‘fast’ wave activity that is present when we are alert, attentive, focused, and engaged in problem solving or decision-making. Depression and anxiety have also been linked to beta waves because they can lead to “rut-like” thinking patterns.
Gamma waves are the fastest of the brain wave bandwidths. Gamma waves relate to simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas and have been associated with higher states of conscious perception.
According to George Pierson, theta frequencies in the brain are exactly the same frequencies found in nature. This knowledge is quite profound! Theta, a well-documented meditative frequency, can be accessed merely by hugging our pets, taking a walk outside, touching a flower, watching birds fly, or wading in a babbling brook. This breathe of fresh air analogy will not only produce an entirely new attitude, it actually impacts our underlying neurophysiology or the ways our brain connectivity behaves.
In a 2010 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, being outside in nature makes people feel more alive. Further, this “research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don’t just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses. One of the pathways to health may be to spend more time in natural settings,” according to Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology, psychiatry, and education at the University of Rochester. Dr. Ryan shares, “nature is something within which we flourish, so having it be more a part of our lives is critical, especially when we live and work in built environments.”
“The poetry of earth is never dead.” John Keats