• Feel Good
  • 11th May 2024
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  • 6 minutes

Could binaural beats help your anxiety, improve sleep and help you focus? We tried it out…

Sometimes, wellbeing and mindfulness need to be something easy and achievable. Sometimes, getting to a class even once a week feels like too much.

A diet feels too challenging. Even meditation might not be possible for you right now.

So what if simply listening to something could help your wellbeing?

What if listening to certain sounds could help you concentrate when you are at work, sleep well at night and even reduce anxiety?

Well binaural beats promise to do just that. It sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? But there is some pretty nifty science behind the trend. Let’s unpack exactly what binaural beats are and test them out for ourselves…

What are binaural beats?

Hearing two tones at the same time causes your brain to process a beat between the different frequencies. Your brain slowly falls into sync with the difference between the tones and this has an impact on your brainwaves. This binaural beat has been used for years to help with tuning instruments, however, now it has been lauded for its potential mental health benefits.

You might have seen that Spotify has several playlists dedicated to binaural beats, some promising to help focus the mind, some to help you sleep. In fact, it’s believed that binaural beats can help you with a wide range of things from reducing anxiety, to lowering stress, promoting creativity and even helping to manage pain.

How does it work?

The science suggests that listening to binaural beats can have a similar effect to meditation. The goal of meditation is not to empty the mind, but to acknowledge thoughts calmly and allow them to pass through. We then aim to quieten the mind, to help us deal with any difficult emotions that might arise.

Meditation is wonderful but in our busy modern lives, it can feel like an added challenge to make this a part of our daily routine. Even with all of the guided meditation apps in the world, actually making the time to sit and meditate can be challenging.

That’s where binaural beats come in.

By listening to binaural beats when you are walking to work, lying in bed, getting ready to sleep, working in the office or completing any activity where you would like your mind to be a little slower, you are incorporating meditation seamlessly into your day.

You see the theory is that binaural beats help the brain to mimic the frequency needed for meditation. Listening to binaural beats (and concentrating on the sounds at least a bit) help to create the brain waves commonly experienced during a deep meditation practice.

Record player

How to effectively use binaural beats

Although you can simply pick a playlist and go, some things will be helpful to note when using binaural beats for the first time.

  • Headphones make a difference
    To listen to two differing tones at the same time you need earphones. Otherwise the effect will be largely diminished. The sounds will overlap between the two earphones making your experience of the binaural beats far more effective – plus it will help to block out any distracting sounds.
  • There are different binaural beats for different activities
    While we could go through the numbers on this one, the best place to start is by finding a playlist which is for the task you wish to complete. There are even binaural beats for alertness, as well as meditation and sleep so make sure to pick the right playlist for you at that time.
  • Incorporate meditation to uplevel your experience
    Although binaural beats can help to mimic meditation, it’s helpful to use them both together. Even something as simple as closing your eyes when listening to the beats and focusing in on the sound could make the experience more intense. You could also try some mindful breathing or completing a short body scan – focusing on sensations in the feet, the hands, the chest and the head.

Trying binaural beats for the first time

I have long been a fan of brown noise to fall asleep to, but I hadn’t tried binaural beats in my day-to-day life before learning about this life hack via Keltie O’Conner on YouTube.

So, I decided to give it a go.

While working I played a Binaural Beats: Focus playlist on Spotify. The sounds reminded me of the sort of music they play at the aquarium. And at first, I wasn’t sure it was helping. Normally I listen to classical music or yoga music when working as I find these less distracting than anything with lyrics.

But as I began to work, I found that my mind was more focused on the task in hand. My thoughts didn’t wander to other things anywhere near as much as they normally do. In fact, I completed my work more quickly.

A fluke? The placebo effect?

Who knows, but I’ll take it.

Next up, sleep. I have a varied experience of sleep. Sometimes I fall asleep so quickly I can barely remember getting into bed. Other times I am awake until the wee hours cursing every person on the planet who is snoozing away in that moment.

So, binaural beats.

At first, I wasn’t sure. I felt as though the sounds were a little too alien, perhaps even anxiety-inducing themselves. But then I closed my eyes and took a few breaths and not straight away, but after a little while, I fell asleep.

However, I will be honest that I woke during the night and found the sound of the binaural beats far too intense. I think they may even have woken me up.

This brings me back to some studies suggesting that just ten to fifteen minutes of binaural beats before completing a task might be more effective than listening to them throughout.

I guess, like with many things, it’s a case of trial and error. Try them out. See what works and when. Like any other mindfulness or wellness practice it is entirely personal. But as I say at the end of most of these wellness columns – worth a shot, so why not?

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Hannah Bullimore

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