Whether you are a pro or competitive golfer, a keen student or a parent to a child with ADHD or other behavioural conditions, you may have heard of the inexorable link between lifestyle, stress levels and behaviour, and one’s health and performance.
The physiological processes that govern the body and the nervous system are in a constant state of flux, responding to how we think, feel and behave, as well as to the circumstances taking place in the outer world. Indicators such as our breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure and temperature, change in line with the feedback they receive, in an attempt to find balance.
When we are stressed and anxious, we think or we behave in ways that disrupt this delicate balance, compromising our health, wellbeing and performance. Biofeedback and neurofeedback, technologies backed by over 40 years of clinical research, provide a nexus between psychology and physiology; they are a means of witnessing what is going on in our body in a physiological sense, in real time and on a computer screen.
Biofeedback and neurofeedback don’t just allow us to view our breathing rate, heart rate variability, perspiration rate or temperature, however; they go further, allowing us to alter the physiological processes that lead to anxiety, heart disease, Type II diabetes – and a host of other stress-related diseases – as well as those that affect our performance, cause us to lose concentration during an important golf game or lead to behavioural problems in children.
Biofeedback and neurofeedback are exclusively offered on the Coast by local company, Mind Matters, which is run by Afshan Morgan, MSc, BSc, MBPsS. A highly experienced Psychologist, Afshan worked for many years in forensics, dealing with people suffering from stress, relationship difficulties, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, alcohol and substance abuse issues, problems managing children and adolescents and emotional instability. Through biofeedback and neurofeedback, Afshan found a way to directly see how the body’s physiological reactions affect how people view and relate to the world.
Biofeedback and neurofeedback are used to treat a number of different conditions. These include insomnia, anxiety, ADHD, low heart rate variability, addiction, etc. The Italian National Soccer team has also relied on this technique, which can be geared towards improving an athlete’s performance in any sport. Ultimately, biofeedback and neurofeedback are for everyone who wishes to strengthen the body-mind connection and improve their health and wellbeing.
A typical biofeedback/neurofeedback session is not only painless, it is very interesting and, I would say, fun. Afshan gave me a session recently, hooking up electrodes to my trapezius muscles (to check for tension) as well as sensors to my hands (to assess my heart rate and perspiration rate) and my diaphragm (to measure my breathing rate).
In a normal session, the client would also have electrodes placed on the head to enable the therapist to obtain an EEG (electroencephalogram). This is a painless, safe test in which no electricity whatsoever is administered to the brain; the electrodes merely read the activity of the different brain waves and thereby glean vital information such as how a person responds to stress, if they are breathing correctly, etc.
The therapist then uses this information to help the patient correct biological or brain dysregulation. In my case, Afshan found that while the normal recommended breathing rate is six breaths per minute, my rate was a whopping 19.5, something she assured me “is fairly typical owing to the amount of stress faced by many people on a daily basis.” Through the EEG, Afshan also sees which brain waves need regulation.
She tells me, “Each brainwave is associated with a unique mental state.” There are five different waves: delta (the slowest brain wave, it brings about healing and growth and is present during deep sleep), alpha (associated with a meditative state and general good health), beta (which is involved in alertness and problem solving), theta (the ‘twilight state’ which comes about just before we fall asleep) and SMR (which calms the body).
Once Afshan has identified any problems (for instance, a person with too much theta activity might have difficulty paying attention, and someone with low beta activity might also have difficulty concentrating), she then uses cutting edge technology, obtained from the US, to correct this dysregulation.
For instance, she might use onscreen games or music to invoke greater activity of a particular brainwave, and to train the mind to invoke these waves in one’s everyday life. Afshan also uses neurofeedback to teach meditation, “allowing people to achieve in two months, what would otherwise take years of practice.” It should be noted that it was a particular pleasure to work alongside Afshan, an incredibly warm but also highly focused professional.
The value of neurofeedback and biofeedback can be summed up by Harvard Professor, Frank H. Duffy, who said that these techniques “should play a major therapeutic role in many difficult areas. In my opinion, if any medication had demonstrated such a wide spectrum of efficacy, it would be universally accepted and widely used.”
Words Marisa Cutillas
Tel: 678 152 143