April 1, 2008 · Print This Article
What is Biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a form of mind-body medicine and a way to increase your awareness and control of bodily responses, like your heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, galvanic skin response, and muscle tension.
Normally, we don’t think about having control of these things, but they are all part of the body’s autonomic nervous system. Many of the functions of the autonomic nervous system are involuntary, but many (like breathing) may be voluntarily controlled. By learning certain techniques, you learn to control your bodily responses.
Who May Benefit From Biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a great way to control stress, so any condition that is worsened by stress may see improvements from using it. These may include:• Addiction
• Chronic Pain
• Headaches and migraines
• High Blood Pressure
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Post traumatic stress disorder
• Sleep problems
Mind-body medicine approaches illness as an opportunity for personal growth and transformation. The use of biofeedback aids in this process of exploring the body, the mind, and the connection between the two in the manifestation of illness and dis-ease. Biofeedback literally shows you how your mind can be used to control aspects of your body that may have seemed uncontrollable.
Biofeedback for Common Ailments
Most people don’t consider themselves ill, even though they may occasionally suffer from things like headaches, stomachaches, irregularity, sleep difficulties and other common, yet livable problems. Biofeedback is a way to help train the body to recognize the signs of these disruptions in the body’s function long before they begin producing symptoms. To understand that, we must look at the role of the nervous system.The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the fight or flight response. This is the part of you that gets worked up about stressful events.
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the rest and digest functions of the body. This is the part of you that knows how to relax.
The problem arises when our fight or flight response is triggered, and there’s no release. When this occurs, we get large amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone, circulating in the body. In acute conditions, this is great. In chronic states of stress, this can cause a chain reaction in the body which raises blood sugar levels, raises insulin levels, increases blood pressure, increases cholesterol, and weakens the immune system. All of which lead to common ailments like the ones mentioned earlier, or other, more serious lifestyle diseases that may be controlled through proper management of stress.
Clearly, the best treatment is prevention. Therefore learning meditation hypnosis and biofeedback may go a long way in preventing disease, and controlling it if you’re suffering from a lifestyle disease.
Getting Started with Biofeedback
Biofeedback equipment can be expensive. When I decided I wanted to try it, I looked around at some of the professional equipment, and it was way out of my price range. Then I came across Journey to the Wild Divine. This is one of the best methods I’ve seen for biofeedback because it’s affordable, it comes with all the equipment to practice, it’s fun and all you need is a PC to enjoy it. I enjoy games, and Journey to the Wild Divine uses the game aspect in conjunction with the biofeedback to make it more fun, enjoyable, and visually appealing.The game essentially walks you through breathing exercises and visualizations to help you learn to control your body’s autonomic responses. When you do it correctly, your body’s response will trigger a change in the game. For instance, one of the first games is juggling. Through deep breathing, you cause the balls on your computer screen to move in a circle. Then, you experiment with different depths of your breath to cause the balls to circle wide and high, or close and short. As you progress in the game, the tasks get more difficult.
If you’re thinking about giving biofeedback a try, I highly recommend Journey to the Wild Divine. I’ve used it with several of my clients and they’ve all enjoyed it.