We're all familiar with how different our minds feel from day to day. Sometimes, our thoughts feel electric and energized. At other times, we feel incredibly calm and relaxed.
These changes indicate different levels of consciousness. But what are these, exactly? And why do they matter to your attempts to improve and grow?
In this guide, we'll start by explaining the sense of consciousness that we're talking about here. From there, we'll look at why levels of consciousness are very important to hypnosis and its success.
Then, we'll walk you through the five major levels of consciousness, noting what they all involve and when you naturally move into each level.
Finally, we'll say more about how your new understanding of these levels can help you get the most out of hypnosis.
What Is Consciousness To You
When we talk about consciousness, sometimes we're talking about different states of consciousness. For example, we might speak of the unconscious - the part of our minds that we can't simply tap into, and which constantly operates outside of our awareness.
In contrast, we might talk about what is available to our conscious mind - the part that narrates our daily lives and reasons for our actions.
We might also talk about the subconscious, which we can begin to access to a degree through certain forms of therapy, including hypnosis.
When people talk about different levels of consciousness, however, they aren't talking about aspects of the mind so much as changes to the brainwaves.
In the simplest terms, our brainwaves are patterns or pulses of neural activity in our brains. When our brain waves alter, we notice changes in everything from our mood to our focus, our motivation, and our receptivity.
But how, exactly, do we differentiate between these different brain waves? And why do these varying levels of consciousness matter so much to hypnotherapy?
Why The Levels Of Consciousness Are Important For Hypnosis
During hypnosis, you enter a trance state in which you are deeply relaxed. In this state, your mind is able to take on the suggestions of the hypnotherapist.
You can then change underlying limiting beliefs about your self-esteem, your phobias, and even habits (like smoking) that undermine your health. And it turns out that changes to your level of consciousness make it easier for you to reach this trance state and get the most out of hypnosis.
While we'll go through the different levels of consciousness in more detail below, the brain waves that promote the deepest hypnosis experience are in the Delta realm.
This means your conscious awareness is reduced to the absolute minimum, in the same way as you might experience during REM sleep (i.e., when you are dreaming).
When looking at levels of consciousness, psychology experts have also noted that the Delta level is associated with physical healing and recuperation, making it an especially useful state for people suffering from chronic pain or stress.
What Are The Levels Of Consciousness
Now that you have a basic sense of what levels of consciousness are, let's look at a more detailed response to the question "what are the levels of consciousness in psychology?".
All possible brainwave states are useful to us - it's simply a matter of entering them at the most appropriate times.
We'll explain when we naturally enter the five major levels, how you can identify when you are in a particular state, and what benefits and downsides are associated with each level.
(0Hz - 5Hz)
When we're in the Delta level of consciousness, we are as far from conscious awareness as possible. Indeed, if someone measured your brain waves during your deepest hours of sleep, they'd see delta waves.
We are also occupying this level of consciousness if we are in a coma, or are in a Kundalini state. Delta brain waves, as we noted above, are crucial for healing - that's why it's so important to reach REM sleep during the night.
They also promote our body to release less cortisol - a stress hormone associated with everything from low mood to an increased risk of certain heart problems.
When deliberately induced, the delta level of consciousness makes you incredibly relaxed - this is what hypnosis aims to coax you into, but some people enter this sort of state more easily than others.
As well as healing us, this level of consciousness gives us the power to make significant, powerful changes to deeply entrenched beliefs.
However, it's important to emerge from a delta state gradually, as you can feel sluggish and confused for a short time after your brain waves have slowed to this level.
(5Hz - 8Hz)
Like the delta level of consciousness, the theta level involves deep relaxation and very little conscious awareness.
You naturally enter this state when you are lightly asleep or just beginning to walk up, and most people are able to get to this level during hypnosis.
Theta waves promote some receptivity to suggestion, so hypnotherapy that this level can make a difference (albeit slightly less so than the changes you'll experience in a delta state).
You can also see theta brain waves when experienced meditators are in a deeply meditative state.
While theta waves aren't quite as conducive to hypnosis as delta waves, the upside of being in a delta state is that you can still be awake while your brain is at this level.
People often report a profound sense of calmness and peace, and you may find your creativity is enhanced when you're in a theta state.
(8Hz - 14Hz)
At the alpha level of consciousness, you are very much inside your own head but much more alert than you would be at the delta and theta levels.
A good example of being in an alpha brain waves state is when you're daydreaming or imagining something. If you're lightly hypnotized or are meditating, your brain would also show alpha waves if the electrical signals were read.
When you're at this level, you tend to feel upbeat and relaxed, but still aware. Interestingly, research on alpha brain waves shows that they are conducive to encoding memories, as well as entering a "flow state" that allows you to concentrate for long periods on the same project or task.
The benefits of being at the alpha level mainly relate to introspective and self-reflective tasks, which means having an alpha brain wave pattern is perfect for personal development work.
However, you may not have your best social skills at your disposal in this state, as your attention is turned inward.
(15Hz - 40Hz)
Your brain's default state is to produce beta waves. So, to imagine what this level of consciousness feels like, think about how you feel when you'd describe your mood as "normal" or "good".
Beta brain waves promote enough alertness to focus on tasks and on interactions with other people, but at this level of consciousness, your attention is starting to turn to the outside world more than it did when you were at delta, theta, or alpha levels.
You will typically feel motivated and enthusiastic about what you're doing and will be proactive about whatever you need to do.
Most of daily life is best tackled when you're at the beta level of consciousness, though it is not conducive to hypnosis - you need to move down a few levels to get the benefits of hypnotherapy.
However, as you move up to the top of the beta frequency, you can begin to feel on edge. Consequently, it's important to have strategies that relax you, so that you can deescalate to lower beta levels if you notice anxiety.
Finally, gamma brain waves are associated with a level of consciousness that is extremely alert but not especially pleasant. When we are frightened, stressed, or need to act with urgency, our brain begins to produce gamma waves.
We take all sorts of details from our environment in this state, and we can make calculations at speed - partly because our brain believes that our lives may depend on it.
Interestingly, some people also report experiencing their most authentic selves when at the gamma level of consciousness. Your sense of what really matters may crystalize, and you may feel more connected to those you love.
So, we certainly need to be able to reach the gamma level of consciousness if we're to keep ourselves safe, but if you're prone to anxiety you may end up in this state even when you are not at risk.
Hypnosis and relaxation techniques can help you calm down, and begin to help to rewrite some of the beliefs that undermine your happiness by triggering your fear.
What Are The Levels Of Consciousness Used In Hypnosis?
You now have a comprehensive understanding of the different levels of consciousness you may occupy, and the pros and cons of being in each state.
You also know which brain waves correlate with these states, and have developed a broad sense of how you might induce them - as well as what events in your life might keep you stuck in a level that fails to promote well-being.
When we're hypnotized, the therapist aims to get us into a level lower than our standard beta levels. The slower you can get your brain waves, the more receptive you are to the suggestions of the hypnotherapist.
You can achieve these deep levels of consciousness through self-hypnosis just as well, moving into a trance level where you can transform feelings and beliefs.
And if you also want the opportunity to manipulate your brain waves so that you enter creative, productive, or focused states of mind at will, there are other techniques available.
For example, binaural beats encourage your brain waves to change frequency, and there are binaural beat tracks for every possible level of consciousness you might want to attain.
In sum, then, understanding and adapting your level of consciousness can be a gateway to your most productive, happiest self.