As I write this, I’m listening to some special sounds that help me keep my focus on my work and boost good productivity habits. All I have to do is put on my headphones, adjust the settings to my liking and touch the play button on an app installed on my smartphone. You might be surprised to learn these special tones are not my favorite music, sounds from nature or even recorded affirmations urging me to keep going, but are a particular kind of high tech sound known as binaural beats.
Binaural beat technology is becoming increasingly popular and is used in a variety of ways; by students and writers to focus and develop good work and productivity habits, by people who suffer from anxiety to help alleviate distress, by people who want to learn to meditate without practising for years and by others who just crave the sense of peace and well being this new technology can bring. And all delivered without the sometimes dangerous side effects of drugs or alcohol. Plus, this technology is extremely inexpensive.
Sound too good to be true? Let me assure you, the benefits are real, as illustrated by this study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Plus there are a variety of excellent binaural beat apps from which to choose. But first, let’s talk for a moment about this technology and how it works. As it turns out, as remarkable as this technology is, it works by using a fascinating and little known attribute of your brain, namely the brain’s ability to manufacture a ‘third tone’ in response to hearing sounds of two different frequencies played separately in each ear.
This third tone, produced entirely by your brain, is only audible to you and no one else. And here’s something even more fascinating: research has shown that your brainwave frequencies and your state of mind are closely related. For instance, if you are deeply asleep, your brain will produce delta waves which have a frequency from 0.5 to 4 Hertz (Hz). If you are awake, but you are resting and in a relaxed, almost meditative state, your brain will produce waves at the 8 to 13 Hz frequency. And when you are wide awake and fully alert, which is exactly the state you want to achieve to be your most productive, your brainwaves are characterized by beta frequencies ranging from 14 to 30 Hz. But unless you are a Tibetan monk, it’s unlikely you are trained to produce these beta frequencies, or any of the other brainwave frequencies, on command.
Here’s where this new technology comes into play. Whenever you are about to start a task that demands your sustained concentration, such as writing, just grab your smartphone, open your favorite binaural beat app, choose the concentration mode and adjust the settings to your preference. Then put on your headphones, press the play button on the app and turn your attention to your task. Your brain will produce the beta frequency automatically in response to the tones and keep you pleasantly focused on your work.
Almost all of the binaural beat apps let you pick your favorite background sounds, such as crashing ocean waves, gentle rain, a rolling thunderstorm or even pink noise. You can adjust the volume so the actual ‘beat’ of the tones underneath the background sound is minimal or, if you like hearing the beats come though as I do, then just dial up the volume. Also, you will probably want to experiment with different settings as well as different apps, as what works well for me may not be to your liking.
There are many companies that do an excellent job at producing binaural beat apps. For boosting my productivity and focus I really like the apps from Banzai Labs, such as Sharp Mind, which has a menu of productivity programs such as Concentration Boost (my favorite!), Problem Solving, Brainstorming, Creative Thinking and others.
Binaural beat technology is not just useful for increasing your productivity but is also very effective at helping you get into deep meditative states as well as helping you get to sleep. AmbiScience is a good company to try for these purposes. I particularly like their Power Sleep and Nap app for help in the sleep area and their Brain Power app for meditation. Banzai Labs also has another app called Altered States (don’t let the ‘woo woo’ name stop you!) that has some great meditation presets and even some settings to induce dreams.
So the next time you find yourself not being able to settle down and get to work, or you just can’t seem to focus on the task at hand, try one of these apps with their binaural beat technology to improve your focus and concentration.
I’d love to hear what you think about this technology, particularly how these apps have affected your concentration and productivity habits. Just leave me your thoughts in the comments below!