Originally posted on The Consciously Parenting Blog September 4, 2010
We are so busy!
I’m sure it isn’t a surprise for you to hear that we all spend a great deal of our time in the “go, do, hurry” state. Every one of us has a really long to-do list that calls to us when we’re trying to relax or do something else that needs to be done, right? Am I alone in this? I don’t think so!
I was amazed to read about the fact that there are different brainwave states that are important for us to be happy and healthy besides the “go, do, hurry” one. When we’re rushing around, multi-tasking, and trying to get a lot accomplished, our brain is in “beta.” But did you know that there are 4 main brainstates, not just “on” or “off”? I had a sense that there was more, but really didn’t understand it until I read Connection Parenting. Yes, Connection Parenting, not some book about brain science. This book by Pam Leo explained it in very simple terms that I could wrap my brain around and embrace.
So, there’s delta. Delta is important for a good night’s sleep. We all need delta. Regularly.
The next most relaxed state is called theta. Everyone passes into and out of theta every day twice a day (more if you nurtured yourself with a nap! Bonus points!). We enter theta when we are falling asleep and waking up. The great thing to know about theta is that we often find the answers to our problems when we’re there. Our inspiration, creative problem solving, and novel solutions are found right here. Daily. That’s why it can be really effective to think about a challenge you’re having right before you go to sleep and you’ll often wake with the answers!
If you’re familiar with Writing Down Your Soul, the book written by Janet Conner, the writing process she describes tells you how to access the theta brainwave state when you’re awake! I did an interview with her about this process and you can listen to it for free here.
Now, if you’re counting along with me, you know there is still one more brainwave state left. I totally saved the best for last. I think this last one is the best kept secret. If we all knew about this as parents and how magical it can be, we would try to spend all our time here. OK, maybe not ALL our time. But a lot of it. Alpha could be considered in between theta (nearly asleep) and beta (go, do, hurry). It is more relaxed than beta (go, do, hurry), but not as dreamy as theta. I had no idea how important this state was until I did some experiments with it after I read Connection Parenting.
What nurtures you?
I wrote out a list of things that nurture me. It includes things like going for a walk, getting together with friends, and painting my toes. Well, it turns out that those things are all in the alpha brainwave state. When we move out of beta (go, do, hurry) and into alpha (slowing down), we completely change the energy of what is happening in our own bodies and also with the people around us.
Pam Leo’s book, Connection Parenting, had mentioned that knitting was great to calm everyone. I laughed to myself, since knitting was about the least relaxing thing I could think of since I was unable to knit without extreme concentration (not alpha!). But I stuck with it and practiced my knitting until I was able to do it without too much thinking.
Then one day, I had my opportunity. Both my boys were really loud and were driving me a little crazy. I was hearing George Castanza’s father on Seinfeld saying, “Serenity Now!” and knew I had to do something! I pulled out my knitting (which felt like the craziest thing to do at that moment) and started in on my next row. A miracle happened. My children quieted down within about 30 seconds. I’m serious. One went off to read a book while the other went off to play by himself quietly in his room. I didn’t say a word. I just began to knit. Instantly, I felt more calm and so did they. Wow!
But what this did for me was just as impressive. I kept going, tying all those little knots and let the world go for a while. When I was done knitting and returned to my other tasks, I was able to focus and actually get some real work done. All because I had stopped to nurture myself a little bit. Important. No, vital.
Alpha is another fine way to nurture ourselves. Find alpha. Become acquainted. Befriend alpha, if you haven’t already. Let me know what puts you in alpha and if you have had or have any experiences with alpha or theta that you’d like to share.
Today, I slept in until I was ready to get out of bed. I give myself the joy of extra delta AND several more chances at theta, since I woke and decided to let myself go back to sleep! Ah, the joys of a long weekend!