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Hello, and welcome to the Wellness Mama podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com. And this episode goes deep on the topic of how light, sound, and vibration can help and heal the brain. And I’m here with Dr. Patrick Porter, who is an absolute wealth of knowledge. He’s an author and a speaker and the founder of something called BrainTap, which we do talk about in this episode, but he’s also the leader in technology-enhanced meditation. He really pioneered the use of brainwave entrainment to improve clarity, sleep, energy, and he remains at the forefront of the scientific research about this. And like I said, he founded BrainTap, and we do talk about that in this episode, but he also gives a tremendous amount of very practical strategies for improving your brain and your nervous system health with daily habits that you can do that are free. And he gives some really specific tips. I really enjoyed this episode. He also has strategies specific to kids and to family nervous system regulation. I know that you will learn a lot. So let’s join Dr. Patrick Porter. Dr. Porter, welcome. Thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited to finally chat with you.
Dr. Porter: It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Katie: Well, we’re going to get to go deep on some fascinating topics today. I think for a little bit of background and understanding of the pieces of our conversation, I would love for you to give us context of what BrainTap is and how it was developed. And then I know there’s going to be a lot of specific questions that come from that.
Dr. Porter: Right. Well, I’ve been in this field since actually 1986, but before that, my dad was a Silva Method instructor. And so we used something called the Silva sound, which was an isochronic tone generator. And then in the 80s, when LEDs came out, we started playing around with binocular brain entrainment, which is very similar to binaural brainwave entrainment.
And what we do is we use the same technology to use light, sound, and vibration to basically train the brain to go into these altered states. Every cell has a mirror neuron, which means it’s always measuring or getting the frequency of what’s around it, like your home, your lights outside, whether you’re near the ocean, the mountains, all these things. And the body will mimic that frequency because that’s what tells the epigenetics, or the genetic system of the body, how it should respond in those environments. Like if it’s a stressful experience, it should flee. If it’s a peaceful, loving experience, it will relax and move into that parasympathetic state. So BrainTap uses the technology to get people out of their fight or flight mode and into their rest, relax, digest, recovery mode to help them to have better brain function, to think, sleep and perform better.
Katie: I love that you mentioned the Silva Method because I recently read the Silva Mind Control Method book and was fascinated by the concept. And I didn’t even realize that that integrated with the work that you’re doing. But I love that you also brought up that downshift from sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system. I know this is a big issue for a lot of moms, and most of the people listening are moms. And I know for me, this was actually a really big key because I had done all the physical health stuff for years, and I had the spreadsheets of supplements and the perfect diet, quote-unquote. And it wasn’t until I addressed the emotional side and the nervous system health that things really shifted for me. And so, I love this topic. I think it’s especially important, like I said, for moms, probably also for kids. But I would love to go deeper and learn from you because this is such a specific area of expertise, a little bit more about brain entrainment and how we can use that to our advantage.
Dr. Porter: Well, putting in the context of mothers, we did a PTSD study with moms of autistic children. And, you know, mothers alone don’t have time to meditate, or they don’t feel like they do. So what we did is we showed them how to do a 10-minute brain break during the day and actually to do it where the child actually sees them doing it. And so, what we found was we downregulated their nervous system. They were able to sleep better. They were able to get the recovery they needed because, you know, when you’re a mother, you’re always on guard, right? You’re always making sure the children are all right, what’s going on, what’s happening. You never get a time to rest. But what we told them was when you put your child down to rest, at least the first 10 minutes, hopefully they’re going to relax. Put on the headset, do your thing.
And what we found was not only when we tested them for post-traumatic stress disorder, they all had it according to the testing, but what happened was we were able to help them to recover faster because if you don’t ever disengage that fight or flight, that always worrying what’s going on, what’s happening next, and what we call hypervigilance. We actually call that special forces brain. And a lot of mothers have that. You know, you’ll see the, I mean, they always make fun on television, of course, that mother that’s always, you know, kind of got all their kids on the radar and doing their things. But really, there’s a reason that, you know, dad can fall asleep in the bed, and the child three doors down could be crying. Mom wakes up. Dad keeps sleeping through it because there’s something hardwired in there about that. There’s some quantum entanglement between the mother and the child.
And so what we found was just like we did with PTSD with veterans is in with their dogs. We did the bomb dogs. We found out when the veterans were relaxed, their bomb dog actually relaxed. We found the same thing was true with their children. When the mother was relaxed and calm, the children were more relaxed and calm. It’s almost like they feed off the energy of whoever the alpha dog is, you know, in the PTSD world.
So what we show is that everyone needs a break. You know, it’s how are you doing it? And of course, some people will turn to alcohol or drugs to do that. And we want them to use their own neurochemistry. The world’s greatest pharmacy is between your ears. It’s not in the corner drugstore. So when you can downregulate that nervous system, you’re turning on those wonderful neurochemicals like the acetylcholine and GABA. They’re going to help that mother sleep better or anyone actually that’s using the technology. But the key here is to get them. It doesn’t take a long time. Everyone thinks it takes a long time.
When I was in India at AIIMS Bhopal, and Dr. Varun said that I was cheating because I was teaching people to use the brain tap instead of meditating because we brought gurus up on stage and we showed them, hey, here’s a guru’s brain. They just meditated. Here’s the before and after. And then I took just a regular person did before and after. And they did the same thing. They said, how could they do that? They never practiced. It’s because our body learns from its environment. We are always, our epigenetic system, is always going out into our environment from the foods we consume, the water we drink, the people we communicate with, the books we read. Everything about our environment is actually playing into our genetics, really. Every genetic pair changes every 40 seconds. And so if we can downregulate and get rid of that stress, that fight or flight, and this is part of the key too, is what we like to train everyone, including mothers, of course, is that life is a series of challenges, not a series of threats.
You know, now more than ever, people are being bombarded on the news, you know, on social media about all these threats that are out there. But the most incredible part of the human experience is that we have this incredible immune system. They call it psychoimmunology. Our immune system actually is a thinking immune system. We know that if you think of life as a series of threats, your immune system downregulates. It actually makes it more threat-inviting in the environment. But if we look at life as a series of challenges, our immune system actually amplifies, you know, and gets better. So we have these wonderful bodies that everybody seems to think that we need a pill to make it. It’s not true. We have our own neurochemistry. It can do it. It’s just the problem is that everybody’s in all this stress. So what we want to do is just teach people how to downregulate that stress system.
Katie: So many important things, what you just said. I think really the highlight, I do think mom set the emotional tone for the home. And I see that over and over. If I’m calm and regulated, my kids are much more naturally calm and regulated. And I love that you said too about how mom’s brain somehow just shift into that instinctively when they have a baby. Like I remember those instances, their dad could be sleeping soundly all night. He’d wake up in the morning and be like, oh, that was great. The baby didn’t wake up at all. Whereas I could hear the baby roll over or breathe differently all the way down the hall. And my nervousness was like, what’s going on, immediately.
It’s also fun to me that you’ve used the special forces brain analogy because during COVID, I did stand-up comedy as a challenge to myself. And I did a lot around moms versus special forces. And I made the argument that on pure mental willpower, I think moms might win because we do it all day, every day, with no break. I also think it’s really important what you said about the kids seeing us do it. I think this applies across the board with parents in general. But if they see us make time for exercise, make time for morning sunlight, make time for nervous system regulation, not only are we setting that example and giving them permission to do it as well, but I think that also it really helps them to integrate those habits from an early age.
I’d love to understand, on a little bit of a scientific level, when we’re in sympathetic fight or flight versus parasympathetic rest and digest, what parts of our brain are lighting up differently or what’s going on in the brain? Are there different brain waves that happen during those different states?
Dr. Porter: Yeah. Yeah, there’s different brain waves, but think of the brain not as just located between your ears. This is the mistake most people make. Every cell of your body is thinking, operating, and responding to its environment. So when you’re in a fight-or-flight state, every cell goes into what’s called cell danger response. So think of it like the mitochondria, actually the power plant of the cell. It’s like having a fire out back, but then you put a bunch of burning leaves over it when you’re in fight-or-flight. It’s like everything downregulates. The energy system downregulates. That’s why if you’ve ever had a stressful event, after it’s all over, you just are so tired because it’s so draining on you. If you’re so happy and excited and things are going good, you have a hard time sleeping that way because you’re just so excited because you actually bring energy in.
So the biggest difference between the brain waves that we find is that most people that we’ve scanned, and we’ve scanned about 30,000 brains over the last 10 years. We probably should up that number because we’ve been doing it a lot here recently. But what we found is that most people’s brain is operating in delta. Now, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about delta out there. There are actually people out there saying they can program in delta. Delta is unconsciousness. There’s nothing. You’re not there. Your consciousness is. That’s when you fall asleep on the couch and everybody’s trying to wake you up and you’re like dead to the world. You can’t move. You’re in that deep state of delta. But we need that deep state to detoxify our brain. But we don’t want it when we’re awake. Because if you have a lot of inflammation and you’re super tired, your brain is going to try to downregulate while you’re awake. So what people do is they’ll do coffee, tea, and chocolate or foods to keep their body going biologically. When we need to use our electrical system. So we want to get rid of that. And we also know that when somebody’s in high delta, they have a great deal of inflammation in their body.
Now, what we want to do when you’re in the thriving state, what we call it is, your brain is actually 45% beta and 30% alpha. Those are the primary brain waves. And if you can think, beta is your reactionary brain. So we need that when we’re awake, especially a mother. You need that because you’re going to be interacting, reacting. You don’t want to be just so passive that, like a California surfer, you just let them do whatever they want. You’re going to be handling situations. Now, we need that 30% alpha because that’s your intuitive mind. That’s where you get all the answers. And our brain works best when it’s a problem-solution scenario. And so when we do this, now, what we found is that most adults, not just mothers, but most adults in general, I would say 95% of all adults are either missing or have very little theta brainwave activity. Think of theta as your inventive mind. You know, about 3% to 5% of what’s going to happen to everyone listening to this call today, you’re going to have something new happen. Ninety-five to 97% of what’s going to happen today, you already know about. You’ve done it millions of times. You go unconscious. You just do it. You don’t even remember maybe folding the laundry, doing the dishes, driving kids to school, going to work. Whatever you’re doing every day, those things kind of get lost in the shuffle. But there’s going to be 3% to 5% that is new and unique. That’s what’s going to throw you off your game. That’s why when Mike Tyson said everyone has a plan until they get hit. Everyone’s going to get hit every day. Something’s going to happen that’s going to throw you off your game.
Now, the quicker you can reset your autonomic nervous system, the better your brain will function. Because the more stress you’re under, and this has to do with diet, too, because you can outthink of bad diet. So you can’t just use BrainTap or any other mental process unless you’re some super guru or something. I’ve never met anybody like that, and I’ve been all over the world. If you eat garbage, your brain’s going to produce garbage. You know? And you have to get up and move and breathe.
So when you’re talking about with the mothers and doing things, if they can make these activities like, hey, we’re going to go out and see the sun today, before the UV rays, of course, before 10 o’clock in the morning, and we’re going to go get sunlight in their eyes, wow, what was that like? And make it like a field trip and make it something they do because children follow their parents. We all know when you have somebody over, a friend’s child, they might start imitating their mom and dad. And they might imitate things they don’t want to share. You know? You know, so. They’re always watching. They’re always observing.
We are always watching. Our cells, our body, our brain is absorbing and basically recording everything. So if we can make it movement part of our day, that’s going to help our brain function better. And then, of course, do some kind of brain fitness. Now, a lot of people only have time right before they go to bed. But if you’re one of those mothers out there, because two-thirds of the world isn’t sleeping right now, and that was before COVID, so I don’t know what it is now. I’d love to see somebody do a study, a worldwide study, to see what it is now. But most people think that they can just do 10 minutes before sleep for good nighttime activity. But it starts first thing in the morning. You know, we need to get the body moving and get the body breathing and hopefully without caffeine. You know, you can do caffeine, but I always recommend doing caffeine a couple hours after awakening. When you do caffeine, you’re actually training the brain not to produce norepinephrine, dopamine, and cortisol, which is what we need. And then that’s why it downregulates and starts operating in delta.
So we need to do something exciting in the morning. Maybe we get the kids up and you do some kind of exercise together. Because there’s nothing better for brain fitness than to get the brain working. And if you’ve got children going to school, if you can get their brain operating at a higher level before they get out of bed. Now, at first, that’s going to be difficult because nobody really wants to do that, right? But it’s just like anything else. Once you do it over time, and if you do it as a family, it’s going to become a habit, a pattern that’s going to be instilled in them.
I know that I was brought up Catholic. So there’s a saying that the monks had. They said, give me a child till their seven, and I’ll give you a Catholic for life. And what they meant by that was because the habits and patterns that are instilled in that person. So when you’re thinking of your children, whatever you do before the age of seven, even though you think they’re not listening, they’re not watching, they’re just little kids. They are learning lifetime skills. So if you’re stretching, doing yoga, going for walks, and you’re taking them with you, they will start to believe that is a part of the reality that they should have when they grow up. So no good deed goes unseen. So we just need to continue to do those things.
Katie: You’re so right about that. I’ve seen that play out with my kids. I have six of them, ages 7 to 17, and the little ones will do it with me. Like we sit on the porch and drink tea in the morning, and they get their sunlight that way. And my older ones have started integrating this as their own habit now. my one daughter likes to wake up before the sun, and she’ll walk to this dock near our house to watch the sunrise now. And so she’s getting movement and light, and it’s become her habit, not just mine.
I love some of these tips that you mentioned and want to highlight them because I think often the simple things can be so profound, but they get overlooked because they are simple, but morning sunlight, there’s so much data now. And I know you have some as well of how that helps our circadian rhythm so much. And so I’ve set simple guidelines for myself, like sunlight before screens, hydration and protein before caffeine, to your point with, I think, is it waiting about 90 minutes for the adenosine thing to work out?
Dr Porter: Yup, yup.
Katie: What are some other ways, like in a perfect scenario, especially understanding that mom set the tone of sort of nervous system health in the home, what are some other good habits that we can integrate that help us have a regulated nervous system throughout the day, whether it be lifestyle habits, supplements, some dietary strategies? And then I want to make sure we also talk about BrainTap because I know that’s kind of a hack that helps tie it all in really, really well.
Dr. Porter: Right. Well, one thing is we get three times a day where we get to downregulate our nervous system right before we eat. If people are running around being spastic and all that, and then they sit down to eat, their digestive system isn’t prepared to eat. Now, whether you want to pray or you want to just have a moment of silence, you should just think of doing some breathwork.
There’s three different breath works I recommend people do. And you can do this as a family. In the morning, you can do, it’s basically called the breath of fire. And this wakes them up if you can teach them how to do it. And we don’t have time to go through all the training here, but basically it’s nasal breathing. You hold in your abdomen and you breathe out your nose only. You only focus on the outbreath as fast as you can. And if you can do three reps of that with your children, they’ll wake up. If you can get them trained to do that, it’s going to wake up their frontal lobe is what they need also for education and learning.
Now, in the middle of the day, I always think, you know, if it’s good enough for the Navy SEALs, it’s good enough for me. It’s called box breathing. So when a child, when my grandkids are, are irritated or upset, or we’re going somewhere else, say, let’s practice a little box breathing. And so you breathe into the count of four, you hold it to the count of four, you breathe out to the count of four, you hold it out to the count of four. You keep doing that for three or four minutes. We like to do it when we’re driving the car with them at stoplights. Because, you know, nobody likes to sit at a stoplight, but it gives you, that will give you time to start practicing that breath. Now, what that does, it will upregulate your, it will give you the energy you need in the middle of the day because that happens usually. But you can do it anytime. The Navy SEALs do it when they start to feel a little agitated, you know, because they’re getting ready for a mission or something like that.
Now, at night, what I always recommend teaching children, and I teach adults this as well, it’s a 4-8 breath. Breathe into the mental count of four, breathe out to the count of eight, and then have your child think of the things they’re grateful for while they’re doing it. You know, what are you grateful for today? Get them in the habit of thinking of those things because whatever you think about last before you go to sleep, you’re going to dream about. And you have a 100 billion neurobit processor called the human brain, and it’s going to work out those solutions for you. If you go to bed with fear or anxiety or resentment or anger, any negative emotion, it amplifies those, and they don’t sleep as well. So those are three things.
Now, eating-wise, I would recommend getting rid of all sugary cereal. Sugar is the number one death kill for the brain. Everything has it in it, right? So we have to teach kids how to eat more fresh fruit. We always recommend darker colored fruit because it’s better for the brain, you know, those kind of things. But really, nobody really, I mean, you can’t overeat fruit if you’re not eating anything else. But look at the table as fat, fiber, and protein. That’s what you need. No, I’ve never met a child or an adult that had a carbohydrate deficiency. So, you know, you don’t have to worry about that. And this is going to take some time.
When I was growing up, my family, there were nine of us, we got into this because my mother went to an ironologist who taught us how to eat. And my brother was a spaz. I write about it in my book, Awaken the Genius. And they wouldn’t start class until he ran laps around the classroom. But as soon as we stopped having sugary cereal for breakfast and we started eating like whole grains and things that were slower to the brain, brain foods, then, we all became honor roll students. I mean, everybody thought, wow, the Porters are all super smart. But a couple of years earlier than that, we were all, oh, no, the Porters are in my class. I don’t want them. And, you know, they’re spazzes. You know, we can’t even operate. You know, go to church and it’d be like a chaos, a circus, you know, instead of, you know, but then once we got our food under control.
And then I believe that families that meditate together stay together. So they do this at schools. You can do it with BrainTap. You can put on the app, do it together, do a little brain prep at schools that use it. They call it brain prep. They get the brain ready for learning. Or you can do it after they get done with their learning because. When you’re learning something, you really are stressing the brain. So if we can relax the brain, now we can categorize, organize, and then stimulate those memories so that when we need that information for a test later, it’s easily available. So that’s some of the tips.
But I think basically, kids don’t need as much food as parents today think. I mean, I know parents that bring like they’re going to an away game for four hours, and you think they’re packing for expedition across the country or something, you know, and the kids are just constantly eating. We need to, our kids need time to digest, metabolize, and use that food as well.
Katie: That’s such a great point. And I love that you said the focus on healthy fats, protein, and fiber. I think it’s no secret in the data that most kids are actually not getting enough of those key categories and are getting, like you said, way too many of just processed carbohydrates. I think that shift alone for kids is incredible in what it will do for their energy levels and their focus and just how calm they can be at home. So I love that you brought those up.
And I also know having been through it myself, that when the nervous system is dysregulated, it can be very difficult to consciously try to shift that from within yourself when you are in a state of nervous system dysregulation, which is why I love tools like the BrainTap. And I would love for you to explain a little deeper the science of how that works to help your nervous system sort of shift externally to be able to get into that calmer spot.
Dr. Porter: Right. So every cell of our body has that mirror neuron that I talked about earlier. So it’s always observing, registering what’s happening around us. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to use our senses, the sense of sight and sound and vibration. Every cell is also measuring. We look like we’re still or we’re solid, but we’re not. We’re, we’re teeming with energy.
And so what happens? I’ll use the example of music. Music. Most people have been to a party. They really didn’t want to be there. But then they started playing all their favorite songs. They start tapping their toes. They start swinging their hips, and their friend comes over and says, hey, I thought you didn’t want to be here. And they go, well, they’re playing all my music. That’s because that music, every cell has something called a chromophore, which is a battery that absorbs light, sound, and vibration. So when we have enough energy, our brain regulates. If we don’t have enough energy, it dysregulates.
So with light, we’re going to use very specific frequencies of light to mirror. As an example, if we were to go sit by the ocean, it would be 10 hertz frequency. So we’re going to mirror that. That’s alpha. Now, it’s not just one frequency. We, our algorithm has solfeggio frequencies, Nogier frequencies, earth frequencies. All these frequencies are being played in. We call it a symphony of brainwaves. So the brain can move through these different categories of brainwaves from being awake at beta, moving through alpha and theta. And if they need to go to sleep, we drop them in delta. And we even have sessions for gamma for those that want to experience that’s, usually we use that for dementia and in Alzheimer’s and things like that, because it’s the bass drum for the brain.
But the reality is that most people never exercise their brain anymore because they’re sitting in front of screens all day long and they’re not doing much thinking. They’re not getting out in nature. When you’re out in nature, nature does this for us all the time. So we’re in the mountaintop. That’s 7.8 hertz frequency. Our brain will regulate to theta. When we’re near the ocean, it’s 10 hertz frequency regulates to alpha. We’re used to moving and basically doing that. So what the light, sound, and vibration does, it trains the brain to do that.
Now with children, we have over 47 sessions for children specifically. They’re mostly stories. So it’s like listening to a book on tape, if you will, for a child. But then, while they’re doing that, we’re training their brain for alpha because alpha has to do with cognition and memory, focus, and those kind of things. Things they need for school. And that’s why we focus on that. And we find that a lot of children are dysregulated in the alpha band instead of the theta band. If they have high theta, they will become disassociated kids. If they have high beta, they become hyperactive kids. So we need to balance those out so that they, they’re able to when it’s time to be active, like in sports, they can jump up and be in that category or if it’s time to rest and relax, they can fall asleep and get the night’s sleep that they need.
Katie: That is so fascinating and so helpful that there are things that can help. Like you just explained us to shift that when it, like I said, it’s so hard to shift it when you’re in it. I know I had that experience so much. And so I love that there are technologies like this. And I know we’re going to get to do another episode to talk about more specific solutions when someone has a TBI or related to the aging process and how the brain declines as we age.
Are there any other things that are synergistic with BrainTap to help it work more effectively? I would guess the basics we already talked about are, of course, key, sleep is going to be key. Are there things like minerals? I know that the brain is electric. If we get enough minerals, it seems like that helps our electrical capacity. But anything else you recommend synergistically?
Dr. Porter: Yeah, I think that I use minerals every night, and I recommend them. A good friend of mine has some, it’s called Get Off Your Acid, and is the product, Dr. Daryl Gioffre. And they’re nice tasting, so kids will drink them. They taste like fruit drink or something like that, but they’re minerals. And you take them right before bed, and that seems to be one of the best times to take minerals. And then while you’re sleeping, the body will use those minerals to rebuild the body. If you don’t have minerals, then you’re going to be in trouble. And a lot of people have depleted minerals because when you’re eating sugar, your body will pull those minerals from the bones to digest and metabolize that sugar. So we can help it by not eating so much of that.
But I think that the key here is BrainTap will help with sleep. But if you’re not doing something, I would say, especially for yourself and children, start going around the house when it’s dark outside. Start turning off lights. Only use lights in the rooms that you need it at. Turn off all screens at least an hour before bedtime. Do something that takes creativity and maybe some positive thought. When we were growing up, of course, being brought up Catholic, we went to bed saying the rosary. So we were always passing out during the rosary. Not that it was so exciting for us, but that’s just what we did. So it just depends on what your practice is. But you need to have some kind of downregulation practice. Don’t expect a kid to go right from watching some spastic show on television to going to sleep. The brain needs, these different brainwave states are more like an automatic transmission rather than a standard. We just don’t go from first to second to third. We can’t go from first to fourth gear. It’s an analog system. So we’ve got to move through these brainwaves.
And really, it’s a flow. That’s why they call them waves. It’s not digital. So we need to get into these waves. And at night, it’s normal for them to start to feel tired. And I would discontinue all eating at least three to four hours before sleep. In fact, they found that when the old punishment was you’re going to go sleep without dinner, they actually wake up better if they do that. You know, if you have to feed them right before sleep, then I would definitely make sure it was high in protein so that they can, you know, convert to burning fat while they sleep. And that’s going to get that’s going to feed their brain instead of, you know, feeding their body and storing it as fat for later.
Katie: Those two tips alone, I think, make a huge difference, especially with kids, but truly with all of us. I know I read the statistic that we as Americans often eat in like a 16- to 18-hour window and that we might have like 17-plus eating events that our body recognizes as eating events because we’re just constantly putting small pieces of food and drinks in our mouth. And I think just shifting and stopping eating earlier in the evening and avoiding screens, that alone can have a huge impact on sleep, especially for kids. So I think that’s a huge tip. And I wanted to make sure we highlighted that one. But you are such a wealth of knowledge. It’s always so fun to talk to you. I think this has been incredibly, incredibly helpful. And I’m so grateful for your time. Thank you for the work that you do and for all the brains that you’ve helped and for your time today.
Dr. Porter: Thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.
Katie: And thanks as always for listening. And I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the Wellness Mama Podcast.
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