How tapping into the energies surrounding you may help you get more done.

Living things have an autonomic mechanism that syncs their bodies up with external rhythms, pulses or beats—something that our body is doing all the time whether we know it or not. This synchronization of an organism to an external rhythm is entrainment. It occurs in chemistry, neurobiology, pharmacology, medicine, astronomy and other environments.

In the real world, entrainment occurs when music takes over your body and you are dancing almost subconsciously, when you’re in a stressful situation and you can feel your heart rate increase or, if you’re a woman, you’re menstrual cycle occurs at the same time as female co-workers or roommates. But how?


This isn’t just something that The Police called their classic album. Synchronicity is another word for the end result of entrainment—two organisms working together.

Our internal rhythms adjust to match stronger external rhythms around us. An example of this is when you try to count your heartbeats when stuck in traffic compared to when you are sitting in a quiet room. It was more difficult in the first scenario, right? Maybe because your heart was beating faster when you were surrounded by the energy of the traffic.

When entrainment appears in physics, less energy is expend by the two objects that are entrained. On the other hand, more energy is needed when an object’s energy isn’t in sync with its environment because it is working against everything that is around it. This brings a whole new meaning to “go with the flow.”

The thing is, science isn’t completely sure how this works. One study published in the journal “Social Neuroscience” discusses that entrainment occurs between two people—whether they want to or not—when they exchange visual information about themselves or even just see each other.

Writing in the journal “Music Perception,” researchers concluded that there are a number of types of entrainment that build on pre-existing adaptations that allow organisms to perceive stimuli as rhythmic, to produce periodic stimuli and to integrate the two using sensory feedback.

Those stimuli could be one another’s brain waves, according to research published in a 2017 issue of “NeuroImage.” Researchers asked participants to perform a visual search task either alone or with a partner while simultaneously measuring each participant’s EEG—which tracks and measures brain waves. Local phase synchronization and interbrain phase synchronization were generally higher when subjects jointly performed a visual search task than when they did the same task individually. Some participants searched the visual display more efficiently and made faster decisions when working as a team, whereas others did not benefit from working together.

“These inter-team differences in behavioral performance gain in the visual search task were reliably associated with inter-team differences in local and interbrain phase synchronization,” the researchers wrote. Their results suggest that phase synchronization constitutes a neural correlate of social facilitation and may help to explain why some teams perform better than others.

By working with a team, you may be able to achieve more with less energy. Think working out in a group class or working on a group project at work or school.

Entrainment vs. internment

There can be a time that being in sync with everything and everyone around you can be bad for your health. Think about the extremely negative co-worker who changes your normally positive outlook dark or the frenetic situation of a big task that hasn’t been organized well. When we entrain into these situations, it has the opposite effect—placing our body into internment.

It holds our body hostage into a negative space or a hectic pace. The result is a body that becomes exhausted.

Luckily, that’s when you can seek to entrain with other things like listening to calm music or spending time in a serene environment, like a park or the beach, because it works in many ways.

Photography: boggy22, Thinkstock; FS-Stock, Thinkstock; monkeybusinessimages, Thinkstock