Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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Relaxation, Meditation, Hemi-Sync

Relaxation, Meditation, Hemi-sync

What in the heck is hemi-sync? I'll explain. Keep reading.

Chatham County readers need relaxation just as other Triangle residents. No matter what the song says, it's summer time but the living isn't easy. There's too much stress, too many problems, work hours are too long, too many wars and disasters. As you read this, your muscles make tense, hands clench, stomach may feel queasy, breathing may speed up and your heart may beat a little faster. It's your sympathetic nervous system activating to meet these potential threats to your well-being. If you keep activating, your body will work up into a fight, flight or freeze mentality. Your sympathetic nervous system does what it was designed to do, protect you from disaster. They caveman in your body has seen the lion at the cave door and is prepared to fight to the death or flee as fast as possible. With no lions but lots of stress in our daily lives, our bodies may even develop panic attacks (same fight or flight response, but no lion.)

The sympathetic nervous system response is very efficient and for good reason. We have to protect ourselves from danger! The problem is this response is triggered too often and too easily by the stresses of modern life. High levels of cortisol and adrenaline make us feel on edge and weary. We have two kinds of protection from the excesses of the sympathetic nervous system: our brainpower in the prefrontal cortex and the parasympathetic nervous system which is the antagonist to the sympathetic nervous system. We can use our brainpower in many ways, for example to think our way through life problems and change our stress responses to mute the danger signals of the sympathetic nervous system. We can also call on the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system. By itself, the parasympathetic nervous system cannot deactivate the call to arms issued by the sympathetic nervous system. However, we can learn to recognize and augment this vital response. If the sympathetic nervous system is the accelerator, the parasympathetic nervous system is the break.

Peaceful, blissful relaxation, serene sleep, warm, contended and pleasurable feelings, all are the province of the parasympathetic nervous system. We can't order these good feelings on command, but we can coax them out. Practice helps. Deep slow abdominal breathing and letting go of muscle tension will begin to counteract the stress response. Some herbs and supplements promote the relaxation response. Most people do not need pharmaceuticals for this purpose.

Meditation does work to help you learn to put aside your nervous tension and learn the relaxation response. Books by John Kabat-Zinn are helpful. His book, "Full Catastrophe Living" (Piatkus, 2001) provides additional information about the topics covered in this article.

So, you are wondering, what is hemi-sync? It's a marvelous technique to promote relaxation without the need for books or classes. Research scientists discovered that silent binaural beats delivered to both ears stereophonically will change brain waves and corresponding body responses. The hemi-sync technology is added to relaxing music to change your brain waves from beta to alpha (relaxed), theta (even more peaceful and relaxed) or even to delta (sleep.) Your blood pressure decreases, your muscles relax, your tension evaporates and your mood elevates. I've found that you can achieve these effects even with your eyes open, even walking with stereo headphones. Hemi-sync technology is available in several places. You can sample the music at Check out their metamusic CDs. Robert Monroe developed this technology and his non-profit institute has the most comprehensive hemi-sync collection.

So: happy listening and great relaxation!