We all wish we could be more productive, creative, and satisfied with our work responsibilities, performance, and results. Wouldn't it be great if you were the best you could be — brainstorming ideas, solving problems, and maintaining zen as you grow in your career and tackle more challenging issues?
But these days, due to post-pandemic fatigue and many other stressors at home and work, many professionals are burnt out and searching for new inspiration to re-engage with the world and contribute better at work.
Alpha brainwaves are a natural solution — an optimal brain state we can learn to tap into for improved productivity and creativity. This article discusses alpha brainwaves and their effects. We’ll discuss what they are, their top benefits, and tips to control your alpha brain frequency for better performance at work.
What are brainwaves?
At any point in time, billions of neurons in our brains are communicating with each other using electrical signals. These signals generate movements or oscillations known as brainwaves or frequency. Brainwaves are formed when groups of neurons send signals to other groups of neurons.
There are five main types of brainwaves differentiated by their frequency range. Each one is associated with different types of brain activity and states of consciousness. They are measured in cycles per second or Hertz (Hz) frequency ranges.
Types of brainwaves
Let’s take a look at the five brainwaves:
1. Delta waves
Generally between 0.5 and 3 Hz, delta waves are the most sleepy waves. As you sleep, your brain moves through different sleep cycles. When you’re in deep sleep, your brain produces delta waves, which help with physical restoration, memory, and learning.
2. Theta waves
As you begin to awaken, your brain activates by producing theta waves. These measure between 3 and 8 Hz and take you from sleepy and inactive repose to a more wakeful state. Theta waves can be likened to the line between consciousness and unconsciousness.
3. Alpha waves
Next up, we have alpha waves. These measure between 8 and 12 Hz. They dominate when you are awake and alert yet relaxed. Alpha brainwaves make it easy to absorb new information and connect dots between different thoughts and parts of your brain, increasing creativity.
4. Beta waves
The waves after alpha are low-amplitude and high-frequency. Beta waves measure between 12 and 35 Hz. They’re activated when you’re moving in high gear, making decisions, and solving problems. Beta waves are often induced in response to fast-paced, unanticipated, or stressful situations.
5. Gamma waves
Beyond beta are the even faster gamma waves. Gamma waves measure upward of 35 Hz. The brain produces this frequency when you’re at the peak of your day and full of adrenaline, energy, and purpose. Gamma waves are activated when your brain is working hard and fast, processing information, multitasking, and firing on all cylinders.
What are alpha brainwaves?
As mentioned, alpha brainwaves are a pattern of electrical activity produced in the brain. Alpha is a distinctive brain frequency that emerges when you are awake and relaxed, and have a soft focus on a single task or a wandering mind.
Alpha waves are smack in the middle of the brainwave spectrum. They are a balance between high-amplitude, low-frequency brainwaves like delta and theta, and low-amplitude, high-frequency brainwaves like beta and gamma.
Alpha brainwaves begin to fluctuate whenever you wake from a nap or a good night’s sleep. You’re not yet processing much information or focused on solving difficult problems. Subconsciously, however, your electroactive neurons are firing signals back and forth and making connections on events and issues you may have had running through your mind while awake and asleep. This subconscious brain activity powers increased creativity and, in some cases, productivity, even though you aren’t actively working.
What are the effects of alpha brainwaves?
Brainwaves contain information that helps you do things and complete tasks. Seeking a promotion, contributing to team meetings, comforting a hurting friend — these are actions you take influenced by the different brainwaves and their associated mental states.
Alpha brainwaves create a calm, immersive, and functional mind state. Under this effect, you can focus on a single problem and complete creative assignments. You may feel yourself entering into the flow state, engaged with your work and thoughts — focused yet relaxed. You may not notice time passing by.
Let’s see exactly how alpha brainwaves affect mental performance and mood.
Alpha brainwaves close our minds to distractions and extraneous brain activity. This, in turn, optimizes brain functions, focus, and work performance. This 2012 scientific study infers that alpha brainwaves can help suppress distractions, especially when the distractions are anticipated or expected.
Using neurofeedback, test subjects could increase alpha brainwave activity to boost their attention levels and achieve set goals.
If you find yourself in a less productive state than you’d like to be in — for example, frazzled at work and unable to keep up with your tasks — pause and try one of the alpha brainwave-inducing techniques listed below. They’ll help you produce alpha waves as needed. Or tune into a better-suited brainwave to get you through your to-do list.
Learning to control your brainwaves better is a part of biohacking. You apply biological knowledge and lessons from experiences to be the best possible version of yourself.
Overwork, stress, and non-stop work saps your mental energy and kills creativity. The brain needs moments to pause and recharge to connect dots between experiences and problems to be solved. When you deprive yourself of rest, you deprive your brain of alpha brainwave production.
Alpha waves in the brain induce creative thinking and new solutions. If your work entails imaginative input and expression, learning to influence your alpha states can help you work efficiently and reach your full creative potential.
Take regular breaks between work hours to recharge and rest your brain so it can produce more alpha waves. It may seem counterintuitive to take breaks when you have a lot to do, but it is better for your creativity and performance in the long run.
Alpha brainwaves are dominant when you are in the present, not forcing anything. This meditative mood lulls you into a flow state where you are too immersed ‘in the now’ to worry about other things. This increases your happiness levels and alleviates symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression as your mind stays free and focused on the task at hand.
Happiness is often based on what we perceive, not actual reality. Controlling your brainwaves can help you regulate your emotions and stay happy. Pause whenever you feel overwhelmed, take stock of your environment, and try any of the techniques listed below to produce alpha brainwaves as needed. As mentioned above, short breaks are valuable as they allow you time to produce alpha waves and release happy hormones.
How to increase your alpha brainwaves
Now you know about the benefits of alpha brainwaves, we will share tips to increase your alpha brainwaves so you can achieve more of your goals. If you have trouble concentrating for a long time or working on a single task, you can influence your alpha brainwaves to improve your attention span and productivity.
Since alpha brainwaves occur when you’re in a restful, wakeful mind space, engaging in activities that simulate such experiences can increase the production of alpha brainwaves in the brain. Examples of such activities include:
- Practicing mindfulness
- Meditating and meditative practices
- Listening to brainwave music
- Going on a nature walk
- Deep breathing and breath work
- Drinking lots of water
- Stretching and doing yoga
- Being in nature
- Entering into the flow state
- Using wearable devices with EEG sensors
Let’s take a look at a few of these in detail.
Drinking water throughout the day has significant positive effects on physical and mental performance. The human brain needs water to function well. A constant supply helps it produce more alpha waves, calm the brain’s electrical activity, and regulate focus.
A study that tested performance on a simulated driving test found that minor to moderate levels of dehydration (water loss of
Fueling your body with water allows your brain to replenish and sustain energy throughout the day, especially at work. Always keep a bottle of water close to you to remind yourself to drink. You can also set reminders to stay hydrated on busy days.
Taking long, bellyful breaths while focusing on nothing but your breathing is a time-proven way to bring oneself back to the present, interrupt unwanted thoughts, calm anxieties, and increase alpha brainwaves.
Before you begin a workday or whenever things get chaotic, take a moment to close your eyes and turn your attention inward as you take a few long, deep, slow breaths. You can produce alpha waves by recreating your sleep or wake-up ritual – i.e., when you stop trying to focus on anything and try to relax instead.
The popular 4-7-8 breathing technique involves inhaling for four seconds, holding the breath for seven seconds, and exhaling for eight seconds. Meditating while breathing deeply boosts alpha brainwave production. Combined, they help to release tension, minimize stress, and get you in a better headspace to create meaningful work.
Listening to music
Listening to brainwave music using headphones is one of the quickest and easiest ways to activate alpha waves in the brain. It’s a shortcut. Choose a soundtrack made to stimulate alpha brainwave frequencies and begin focused work.
Certain kinds of music are better suited to create a serene environment, e.g., low-fidelity (Lo-Fi), instrumental, binaural, isochronic, and white noise tracks. These kinds of music can induce your brain to stimulate alpha brainwaves and create a calm, creative, and productive mental state.
If your office, home, or co-working space is often noisy or you need to relax while thinking through a work problem, put on headphones and brainwave music to block distractions and lull your brain into a productive trance. Try these curated Spotify playlists to get your brain into this focused mood:
Practicing yoga regularly calms the mind and nervous system, producing an abundance of alpha brainwaves that positively influence decision-making and performance at work and home.
Yoga also balances brain activity. The relaxed state associated with alpha brainwaves increases when performing yoga, improving mental health and relieving feelings of anxiety and angst. Yoga keeps you focused on the present, making room for creativity and happiness.
Starting your mornings with yoga is a great way to produce more alpha waves and set yourself up for success throughout the day. Create a morning routine or workflow that works for you and helps you structure productive days.
Use Wrike to improve personal and team productivity
Enhancing productivity and creativity is never a one-and-done deal. It’s a continuous, lifelong process to get better at managing your mental states, perspectives, and reactions to create value and enjoy the journey toward achieving your ultimate goal.
For teams, it’s advisable to invest in tools that facilitate team productivity and collaboration as this can exponentially increase organizational output. These tools are crucial for today’s workplace, where global and cross-functional collaboration is the norm and hybrid workplaces are here to stay.
Business owners, leaders, and managers must prioritize creating work environments where teams and individuals can be productive and thrive. Such an environment would foster good company culture, employee autonomy, and the necessary transparency for involved team members on every project. Team members would be willing to give their all — boosting their alpha brainwaves and productivity to contribute more to the company’s goals.
You need work management software that can help set teams up for success, with functionalities including:
- Task and project management
- Task delegation and assignments
- Project timelines and shared views
- In-app @mentions for communication and updates
- Automated reminders to keep teams on track without mental or communication clutter
- Time tracking functionalities to measure productivity and task requirements
- Folders and subfolders for organizing multiple projects efficiently
- Review and approval functionalities for creative teams and departments to get work done faster
- Automated, in-depth reports to measure organizational performance over time
- Integrations with other business-critical tools to ensure a smooth and seamless workflow and tech stack
If you’re ready to take charge and significantly boost your team’s productivity from the personal to the team level, you’re in luck — Wrike helps brilliant teams enhance productivity and improve performance and results. Get started with a free two-week trial.