New to biofeedback?
This video clip from NASA launchpad is a great introduction to what biofeedback is, and how it can be used to improve the performance of pilots, athletes and to treat stress and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), to name a few things.
Electroencephalogram or EEG
EEG is an Electroencephalogram that is used to detect the brain wave activity. There are 4 basic brain frequencies; Alpha, Beta, Theta and Delta. Beta is the normal waking state, Alpha is a relaxed state or light trance, Theta is light sleep or a hypnotic trance and Delta is deep sleep. When using a biofeedback machine for relaxation, the alpha wave needs to be monitored and when we learn to control it, it can help relieve anxiety, epilepsy and insomnia. If alpha therapy training is being used to treat insomniacs, they will also need to train to control the theta brain activity. When treating Epileptics the patient(s) will usually be trained for the alpha state. The brain waves will often also be monitored during a seizure.
The GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) device is a monitor to measure the amount of perspiration you are putting out. It is attached to one or more finger or the palm of the hand, and will tell you what your perspiration rate is. The more perspiration you have the more tense you are and the lower the less tense. The person attached to this device will learn how to relax their tension by doing things like visualizing pleasant things and controlled breathing. Mentally you will begin to learn how you got to the undesired condition and how to avoid getting there again.
As you learn to lower the tension, the therapist will adjust it to be more sensitive until you reach your goal of relaxation. Soon you will learn to use the biofeedback techniques and not even have to think about them. This technique is also used to control migraine headaches. Instead of measuring the perspiration, it will measure the skin temperature. You will learn how to warm up your hand to relieve that awful pain in your head. Amount of time and sessions needed for biofeedback training. The training sessions last about 30-60 minutes each. The number of sessions needed depend on the condition and severity. Some people only need one session but others might have to complete 3 or 4.
Modern biofeedback machines for home use often combine GSR with HRV (heart rate variability) for greater accuracy, and there are even some consumer EEG devices available now.
Applying biofeedback training for relaxation:
Once you have practiced biofeedback training for a while you will gradually learn how to control your mental state at home and work. Thinking how it felt to relax during the sessions and how you managed to get there does this. When your blood pressure and your heart rate go up, you remember how it felt during your training and this brings you back to the relaxed state. It becomes automatic – your body remembers what to do. Impressive results have been achieved with asthmatics. By learning to relax the spasms in the airway passages and muscular contractions that cause the asthma attacks during biofeedback training, many patients are finding relief.
How biofeedback relieves suffering:
Many people have been relieved from chronic pain and cerebral palsy patients have learned to relax enough to improve their fine and motor coordination as well as their speech by using biofeedback therapy. Gaining more active control and applying yourself is the key to controlling the areas of your life that you thought were useless. Biofeedback training can train your mind and body to help you in many new ways.
Relaxation and focus are the keys to better health and wellbeing with biofeedback, and you can further enhance your training with other relaxation techniques like self-hypnosis and meditation. Modern biofeedback machines are truly wonderful new additions to our toolbox for healing and personal development.