Trying to get rid of distractions at work or find the motivation to push through deadlines? Don’t reach for those noise-cancelling headphones! Try the brain-wave altering science of binaural beats instead!
Binaural beats have been popping up as a background setting in many meditation videos or relaxation and sleeping apps, so won’t they be counterproductive if you’re trying to rally against a tedious task? Research says the opposite is true, and they can actually relieve mental fatigue.
Binaural beats are basically two beats played at the same time but with different frequencies for each ear. The beat in the right ear is around a frequency of 179 Hz and 165 Hz in the left ear. Hearing two different frequencies in this way makes the brain take in the frequencies and unite them into a combined tone of 14 Hz, which is typically a frequency equal to the difference between the right and left ears’ beat frequency.
This causes a process known as neural entrainment when the brainwaves synchronize with the auditory waves. When participants in a study last year began testing if binaural beats were as powerful as mindfulness training, they showed that binaural beats reduced subsequent mental fatigue during cognitively demanding tasks even when the beats weren’t present!
How does that work? Researchers believe that the binaural beats reduced mind wandering and improved attentional span while also relaxing and improving resilience in the face of mentally draining tasks, in a way equal to mindfulness meditation. The groups that practiced the most mindfulness sessions and then listened to binaural beats while in a state of mental fatigue on the spot before continuing with cognitive testing experienced the best results.
To get similar results, practice either mindfulness when not working for 4 weeks, and then add in listening to binaural beats for 12 minutes when fatigue strikes, or simply listen to music with binaural beats in the background when you’re looking for a boost. Better cognitive performance, working memory, and better attention is waiting for you at the end of your headphones!
Axelsen, Johanne Lundager, et al. “On-the-Spot Binaural Beats and Mindfulness Reduces the Effect of Mental Fatigue.” Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, vol. 4, 11 Jan. 2020, pp. 31–39., doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s41465-019-00162-3.