In my past few posts, I talked about the change process and the role of dopamine in motivating habit creation and change. Now I’d like to share with you some information one type of training can help you make sustainable brain changes in the direction of improved brain functioning.
This type of training, referred to as biofeedback training, utilizes mindfulness techniques but takes you one step further, adding the dimension of being able to monitor your own brainwaves in real time. Biofeedback is a developing trend in mental health and adds another dimension to mind-body training. Biofeedback training consists of observing and manipulating one’s own body signals, usually heart-rate or brain waves (in which case it can also be called neurofeedback).
While this technology is relatively new, studies are showing usefulness of bio/neurofeedback in decreasing anxiety, improving focus, enhancing mood, and aiding in sleep. It's been shown to help kids and adults improve their present moment awareness, strengthen their mind-body connection, and increase mental well-being.
The main aspects of bio/neurofeedback training are as follows:
1. Person is connected to a sensor (e.g. ear-clip or headband)
2. Software is launched and connected
3. Body signals are measured (e.g. heart-rate or brain wave frequency)
4. Person is asked to manipulate the signals in a beneficial way (e.g. to lessen anxiety or to increase focus) using mindfulness techniques such as guided meditation, guided deep breathing, focused meditation, etc.
5. Software shows whether changes are occurring (e.g. heart-rate changes on a graph or things occur in a game, such as a bridge being built piece-by-piece)
6. Practice is repeated regularly (recommendations range from 2-7 days a week, varying number of minutes per day)
Bio/neurofeedback works by manipulating the dopamine system through reward. When change occurs, it can be seen on the screen, making the user feel accomplished. If so inclined, individuals can view their score after every session, allowing them to track their progress over time.
In summary, biofeedback training is a promising tool for creating lasting brain and body changes. Fortunately, its availability in therapeutic settings is increasing as well, providing a hearty tool to enhance the effectiveness of traditional therapy and medicine.
As always, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more interesting topics to come.