Have you ever been “in the zone”? Experienced a headspace where it feels you’ve pulled all your focus into your workout, project, or mid-morning snack?
That’s being in alpha mode. And it’s the perfect environment for meditating.
Meditation is Magic. But it Can be Tricky.
It’s no secret that meditation is fantastic for cleansing our minds from unfavorable energy and giving us clarity on days where our egos have been somewhat antagonistic.
However, as wonderful as it is, it isn’t always easy to get into a state of stillness. Unfortunately, it can take more than just laying down with a lavender eye pillow and popping on some swishy wave sounds.
Ideally, we need our brains to create particular waves for us to truly dive within ourselves and get the most from our practice.
Meet Your Brain Waves
Our brains produce waves all day, every day. I like to think of them as characters:
- Gamma: Thinks fast, always wants to solve your problems
- Beta: Alert and analytical, loves the drama
- Alpha: Relaxed yet focussed, top performer
- Theta: The dreamer with a vivid imagination
- Delta: The deep sleeper with no thoughts
In order to create the ideal mindset for meditation, we need to produce the peak performing alpha waves.
How to Get into an Alpha State
Alpha waves put you in a state where you’re rested yet hyper-focussed. They’re sandwiched between your analytical beta waves and your dreamy theta waves.
It’s the perfect environment for self-reflection. There are a few ways we can hack our brains to get there faster (and they don’t involve squeezing your eyes shut and telling your ego to just sshh!).
1. Get Comfortable
An obvious yet fundamental step, getting comfortable means more than just submerging yourself within big fluffy pillows.
You need to be in a space where no one can interrupt you and where your dog won’t sit on your head.
This ensures perfect stillness and allows you to escape the beta chatter far quicker than in a room where people parade in and out with wild abandon.
Whether you sit or lie down is your decision and depends on your preferred type of meditation practice. I find it hard to relax while sitting up. However, I’ve friends who have tried meditating lying down but have fallen asleep the moment they’ve hit the pillow! Experiment a bit to find out what works best for you.
2. Become Aware of Your Breathing
Focusing on your breathing is a mindful way to drift into your meditation and an excellent method for anchoring your awareness into the present. It stops your mind from running off on its own anxious adventure because it’s too busy concentrating on the rise and fall of every breath.
One well-known technique is to breathe in for five seconds and then out for another five until you reach a deep sense of relaxation.
3. Listen to Binaural Beats
I love binaural beats! Binaural beats are a sound illusion created by listening to slightly different sound frequencies in each ear. Not only do they block out any sounds from the outside world, but they also help you achieve these wonderful alpha waves quicker.
The theory behind these brilliant beats is that your brain synchronizes with the frequency playing and creates waves to imitate it. This can take you away from the chatty beta state so you can ride that alpha wave.
You can find a vast range of binaural playlists on streaming services, while YouTube has a myriad of videos to discover. Just remember, you’ll need to use headphones for it to work.
Counting down from 100 to 1 is a little like the age-old exercise of counting sheep when you can’t sleep. But instead of counting upwards, you’re counting down.
Like breath awareness, focusing on the countdown stops your mind from wandering, helping you wind down.
For it to work, close your eyes and position them as if you’re looking up, take a deep inhalation and start counting once you’ve exhaled. Visualize the numbers in your head as you count and match each with your breathing. If you notice any sneaky thoughts creeping up, simply bring your attention back to where you left off.
After a few days, you can try reducing it down fifty seconds, then to twenty, eventually reaching a point where you can hit alpha in as little as ten seconds. It does take some practice though.
5. Practice As Soon As You Wake Up
This is quite possibly the best and easiest hack. It might sound rather counter-productive, but starting your meditation as soon as you’ve woken up is brilliant because you’re already in an alpha state (unless you’ve been rudely awakened by a feline turf war outside). Your mind is clear, you barely know who, where, or what you are and have no desire to problem solve. You haven’t even had time to get anxious about anything! Just make sure you make yourself comfortable first – including emptying your bladder if required.
6. Visualize a Calm Space
Placing yourself back into a scene where you’ve felt optimum calm is a great way to help you unwind. After all, your mind can’t distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t, and it instructs your body accordingly.
I always imagine I’m on holiday by the pool, enjoying the warm sun on my skin. This tricks my mind into thinking I’ve nothing to worry about for at least two weeks and allows me to ease into the practice effortlessly.
Finding the best method to suit your meditation takes some practice, but these steps should get you there quicker. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for meditation, so it’s worth trying a few methods to determine your own go-to approach. Whether you use them all or simply a few, just always make sure you’re comfortable first (and in a place where the dog can’t sit on you).
Chloe Angel is a wellness writer, freelance writer, and the creator of ramblingcuckoo.com where she’s made it her mission to teach people the transformative effects of loving themselves and finding happiness from within.