Words by Emilie Marie
Have you ever heard of biofeedback? No? Well I hadn’t either until I read the “The Upward Spiral” from Dr Alex Korb. Biofeedback is the fact that the brain changes its activity depending on what the body is doing. This is all about the relationship between the body and the brain.
What is biofeedback therapy
Our brains control our bodies, especially when it comes to emotions. For example, when you're stressed out or concentrating hard, your body responds in ways that you may not even be aware of: your stomach muscles tighten, you hold your breath and you blink less often. Your palms become sweaty, your heart rate increases and you clench your teeth. Realising that such bodily reactions are occurring, and that you can learn to control them, is the basis of biofeedback therapy.
Biofeedback is an alternative therapy that can help people suffering from all sorts of health issues including high blood pressure, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), chronic pain, migraine headaches and urinary incontinence. Particular benefits are seen with biofeedback and depression, when bodily signals are used to help patients relax and elevate mood levels.
Simple actions like changing your posture or slowing your breathing can impact your brain activity and as a result your stress level, your thoughts and even your mood. And so you can increase the effects of biofeedback by increasing your awareness of your body. This is something I have briefly mentioned before in How to raise your mood when you are feeling low.
Biofeedback and low mood
Negative facial expression, withdrawn posture, increased muscle tension, and reduced heart-rate variability are all symptoms of feeling low. But they are not just results of feeling low, they are also part of the cause.
The good news is that you can change that by taking a series of small actions.
Let’s get you started
Smiling is very powerful: it increases positive feelings. Also when you are smiling you are more likely to perceive positive emotions in other people, which can influence your mood.
People think we smile because we feel happy but the other way is true too: we can be happy because we smile.
All you have to do is smile ☺
Stand up straight
Posture is a very important source of biofeedback. A confident posture may not automatically make you happier but it does modulate your brain’s response to your thoughts. It also gives you more energy.
All you have to do is: keep your chin up, stand up straight and stick your chest out. You will feel more decisive, think positive thoughts and increase your energy level.
For more on this, watch the superwoman stance.
Calm your face
When you frown your brain thinks that you are upset or worried. So when your eyebrow muscles are tensed, you feel more negative emotions and fewer positive ones.
All you have to do is relax your eyebrows (and wear sunglasses on sunny days so you don’t frown) and relax your jaw.
Change your breathing
Changing your breathing is a powerful tool for reversing the cycle of a low mood looming at the horizon because it is one of the quickest ways to change your emotional state. Different types of breathing have different effects on the body and the brain.
Personally, I am using a breathing app which gives me 4 options: training, balance, relaxation and energy.
Relax your muscles
When you are feeling stressed or anxious your muscles tend to tense up. And unfortunately, that won’t go away on its own. This is how I regularly end up with trapped nerves! Here is what you can do:
Stretching helps relax your muscles and goes a long way toward calming the nervous system. And it stimulates endorphins and endocannabinoids. This is one of the many reasons why yoga is so great. I cannot live without it. Personally, I go to a 90 minutes yoga class every Thursday evening and that slot is sacred. You can read a lot more about yoga and its benefits on Balance Garden. (try here and here )
Get a massage. Personally, I get a massage at least once a month as maintenance.
Intellectual Property lawyer by day, blogger and life coach by night. Having suffered from depression on and off over 20 years, Emilie has done extensive research on the subject and worked out a system to manage depression without medication through having a healthy lifestyle. She shares her experience and tips on her blog https://memyhealthandi.org/