Using Biofeedback to Boost Your Mental Health

Using Biofeedback to Boost Your Mental Health
Emilia Dunst 20/11/23

Understanding Biofeedback

As a big dog lover, I am always amazed by how my adorable black Labrador named Zeus reacts to my emotions. When I'm happy, he wags his tail and leaps joyfully around. When I'm down, he snuggles against my leg and looks up at me with those soulful eyes, almost like he's trying to understand and console me. This is not unlike biofeedback, the process of gaining greater awareness of our bodily functions to improve our health. Intriguing, right?

The human body, in its complex and intricate design, is naturally equipped with tools for self-regulation. Let's take a situation where you get a tiny paper cut, your body—without any conscious effort from you—immediately kicks into a healing process. Now, imagine being able to consciously activate your body's healing process? That's essentially what biofeedback aims to achieve. With a bit of guidance, you learn to harness this inherent power and steer it towards enhancing your mental health.

Types of Biofeedback Techniques

Biofeedback employs a range of techniques, each targeting different physiological functions. Still with me? Good. Here we go: we have the Heart Rate Variability (HRV) biofeedback that aids in stress reduction by allowing you to control your heart rate. There's also the Neurofeedback, which targets brain waves to improve ailments such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). To control muscle tension, we have Electromyography (EMG) biofeedback. Then the Thermal biofeedback makes it possible for you to have control over your body temperature, offering relief from conditions such as migraines. Finally, the Respiratory biofeedback trains you to breathe efficiently to decrease anxiety and stress. Phew! A vast realm, isn't it?

How Biofeedback Works to Improve Mental Health

Biofeedback may seem like a concept out of a sci-fi movie, but it isn't. The process starts with sensors connected to your body to monitor specific physiological functions. These devices provide real-time feedback, hence "biofeedback", indicating how your body is currently functioning. During a session, you'll see visuals of your heart rate, blood pressure, or other functions depending on the biofeedback technique in use.

As you learn to control your bodily responses, you progressively improve your mental well-being. Imagine being able to calm your racing heart before a presentation or lower your blood pressure during a difficult conversation. Remarkable, right? Trying to control these bodily responses without guidance would be like attempting to explain to my goldfish, Norman, the concept of flying—it's bound to end in confusion and frustration. But guided biofeedback techniques provide a clear roadmap to gain control and therefore naturally enhance your mental health.

Biofeedback’s Mental Health Benefits

I bet by now you are curious about the specific benefits of biofeedback on mental health. Well, there's plenty to look forward to. Just like Zeus waits eagerly for his evening walks and treats, here are some treats for you.

Biofeedback has been found to be effective in managing anxiety and depression. These benefits stem from your improved ability to control and relax your body's response to stress. Major relief, right? For those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), biofeedback provides an additional resource to manage and reduce symptoms.

Biofeedback can also aid in coping with ADHD, as it enhances concentration, impulse control, and reduces hyperactivity. For migraine sufferers, thermal biofeedback proves an alternative route to decrease the frequency and severity of migraines. The list goes on and on, making biofeedback a Swiss army knife for mental health treatment.

Practising Biofeedback from Home

Wait a minute, are you telling me I can do this all from the comforts of my home? Absolutely! The beauty of biofeedback is that once you learn the techniques from a professional, you can replicate them at home (don’t get too excited, though, it does require dedication).

Heart Rate Variability biofeedback, for instance, involves a focus on breathing patterns. Here's a glimpse: you inhale for about 5 seconds and then exhale for the same duration. Easy to start at home, right? For a plan on practising at home, it is advisable to consult with your health professional or biofeedback therapist. They'll offer guidance tailored to your individual needs.

The Role of Technology in Biofeedback

Before I sign off, it's safe to mention the role of technology in biofeedback. Just as I keep tabs on Zeus and Norman through my home monitor, biofeedback employs technology like apps and wearables to track your needs and progress. With digital health tech on the rise, achieving mental health wellness through biofeedback has become increasingly accessible and convenient.

Apps such as Inner Balance and HeartMath Institute allow for biofeedback practice from your home or office. Many wearables also now come with integrated biofeedback technology. That, together with professional guidance, can pave the way to an enhanced mental well-being. Just like Zeus and Norman need their regular check-ups, it's essential to keep in touch with your therapist or health professional to keep tabs on your progress.

In wrapping up, just remember that like Zeus's desire to chase every squirrel he sees, biofeedback requires persistence and patience. The fascinating journey into biofeedback can be an empowering tool to equip yourself with, offering the possibility of mastering your mind and body responses for better mental health.

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