Biofeedback: Applying the Mind to Health


What is biofeedback?

In biofeedback you expand self-awareness and practice powerful self-healing under guidance. This is often done with measuring devices to train for relaxation. However, the true goal is expanding the dynamic range and flexibility of your physiology. The benefits are enhanced self-regulation and more robust health.

A biofeedback loop starts with monitoring a signal coming from your body. You can monitor muscle tension, hand temperature or brainwave turbulence. Constant updates are fed back to you in a multimedia display. You look and learn. Using this information to get a certain feeling, you then change the signal in a particular direction.

You gain the power to flex and expand your body's functioning. These physiological stretching lessons then go into automatic pilot and are used as needed.

Biofeedback is a mind-body mirror. Specific self-awareness, nourished by intention, becomes self-control. Next comes enhanced homeostasis without further effort. Once you have cleared the trail, the body follows.

Let's do some biofeedback right now. Monitor your pulse. Just feel your heart beating. Without changing your breathing, notice how many times your heart beats during each inhalation and each exhalation. Observe your pattern. Is it 2, 3 or 4 beats per half breath? Now, slow your breathing rate by counting one more heartbeat as you exhale.

Many studies have proven that computerized elaboration of this slower breathing technique has significantly benefits such as lowering high blood pressure. The magic number is usually 6 full breathes per minute. Next try it while walking. Notice the number of strides per breath.

Scientifically sound

The field of biofeedback has progressed by proving that conscious influence is possible over many biological systems and that this practice relieves many diverse disorders.

Scientific literature has well established that holding a thermometer (the signal) to raise your hand temperature (vascular relaxation) prevents 50% of migraine headaches. Biofeedback is more effective than any pill at preventing migraines, especially as medications decline in effectiveness over the years.

Brainwave biofeedback

Using biofeedback with brain signals is called neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is more efficient and powerful than peripheral biofeedback. Neurofeedback can abort migraines. The success rates for resolving migraine are now over 90%. When it works, results seem to endure.

Biofeedback has proven effective in relieving about 150 varied conditions. The only explanation for such broad effectiveness is the power of applied consciousness to self-heal.

The single most popular application for neurofeedback is for ADD. The efficacy is quite high with 85% obtaining 100% remission of symptoms. Complete remission means the disorder is no longer detectable by any means, including brain maps.

Neurofeedback results seem to last forever. There is no homework. As your brain finds a better way to operate, it accepts and adopts the improvements without further effort. As the core problem is cleared, related problems tend to dissolve. Medications can be stopped.

What's it good for?

Here is a short list of the applications for biofeedback in various categories. The quality of evidence varies from rock solid to consistent clinical reports. The positive effect size is usually strong.

Optimal functioning: students, meditators, performing artists, athletes, soldiers, executives.

Everybody: sleep, mental focus, memory, emotional health.

Brain: seizures, stroke, traumatic brain injury, coma, migraine, ARCD.

Lifestyle: drug & alcohol abuse, criminality, eating disorders.

Arousal: stress, anxiety, headache, OCD, anger, PTSD, psychological trauma.

Chronic: asthma, IBS, TMJ, chronic fatigue, immune suppression, fibromyalgia.

Not just kids: ADD, autism, Asperger's, stuttering, Tourette's, tics, learning disorders.

Women: PMS, menopause, hot flashes, pregnancy.

Major: cancer, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, chronic pain, depression.

See www.isnr.org or www.aapb.org for the complete list and scientific references.

Effective

How could one thing be that good for so many different problems? Because the central nervous system is central. Nourishing your mind-body connection with specific awareness and directed intention conditions self-regulatory systems. Your car drives better on all roads after an engine tune up.

I believe that everyone on the planet would benefit from 10 sessions of neurofeedback to optimize mental clarity and upgrade emotional health. Some problems resolve more quickly including garden variety anxiety, migraine, anger, PTSD, PMS and sleep problems. ADD is in the middle but you'll need more sessions for fibromyalgia or autism. Home neurofeedback units are now available for training under the guidance of a professional.

Safe, fun

Biofeedback is remarkably safe. A biofeedback mirror is more benign than a regular mirror. Give an anorexic girl a mirror and she may see enough fat to redouble her diet. Give her 15 sessions of neurofeedback and she will probably begin to ask 'who am I in this world.'

There are cheap and free forms of do-it-yourself biofeedback which are highly effective. And fun. If you want the strongest benefits from biofeedback it is important to employ the best technology. You will derive more rapid, complete and enduring benefits by using the latest neurofeedback software and equipment.

Biofeedback sessions are most often described as pleasant, interesting and relaxing.

Gary Ames is a Licensed Psychologist and Advanced Biofeedback Consultant.


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