One great way to learn something new is when your brain is in a relaxed, but aware state – the alpha state. The normal state of your brain during waking hours is the beta state. Beta brainwaves oscillate between 13 and 25 cycles per second. In the relaxed alpha state, your alpha brainwaves fluctuate between 8 and 12 cycles per second.
During the day, you will slip in and out of the alpha state many times. Did you ever wonder what happened when you were driving, and all of a sudden realized that you didn’t remember passing something you see all the time? Have you ever been looking at your computer screen and mentally dozen off for a few seconds? These are occasions when your brain goes into a relaxed state. You are still aware of what is going on, but not acutely aware.
Another time you enter your alpha state is just before falling asleep – and, also just before awakening in the morning. Researchers have found that we learn most efficiently when we are in the alpha state. It doesn’t sound right, but your beta state puts up barriers to learn. In the alpha state, you have no obstacles to block your learning process.
There are many methods to put you into the alpha state purposely. Here are a few of the more natural techniques: meditation, yoga, relaxed breathing, and in conjunction with your sleeping routine. Meditation includes some ways of arriving at a calm state of mind. Select a quiet location, get comfortable, and focus your attention on an object, an image, or a mantra.
Yoga offers several positions that allow entry easily into the alpha state: full lotus posture, half lotus pose, Burmese pose and the Egyptian pose. Each can easily be found on the Internet. Relaxed breathing involves slow, even-paced breathing. Expand your lungs fully and slowly release your breath. As you are doing this, relax your neck and shoulders and allow the increased oxygen intake to relax and soothe you.
As you fall asleep, you will naturally transition from beta to alpha and then into a deeper sleep. During the alpha phase, you are still aware of your surroundings, but you feel comfortable, relaxed, calm, tranquil and even serene. Upon awakening, before getting out of bed, relax and focus on an object in your room, or just keep your eyes closed and become aware of your arousal. Now recall what your subconscious was working on while you were asleep.
Once you are in the alpha state, you can take advantage of this super learning opportunity. Preplan your learning event. This can be with notes, thoughts, images, music, a learning CD, etc. Whatever medium you choose to use, have it queued up and ready to go. If you decided to take a nap to relax and learn, then while you are in the near-sleep to sleep mode, you can listen to a learning CD. If you are relaxed from a deep-breathing exercise, you can go over your game plan for a project you are working on – or your goals in life.
Tell your subconscious brain before any learning experience that this material you want to learn – or task you want to accomplish – is critically important to you. Tell it that you don’t care if you didn’t do it before, it is imperative now. Give your subconscious brain a deadline – when you awaken, by the time you get to work after you get finished exercising. Let it know that it has to respond by a specific time.
This may sound unusual, but I find that I have to keep a notepad near me because I awaken and have an outstanding thought or possible solution, and then as I go through the day, I forgot what I learned. So, I write it down as soon as I am fully conscious before I have had a chance to lose that thought. I can usually recapture the idea by another round of alpha learning, but I missed some time that I could have been more productive.