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New Mexico State University
New Mexico State University

Biofeedback

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What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback gives us information about ourselves via external instruments (like using a thermometer to take your temperature). Research has shown that biofeedback helps us increase our control of bodily processes and has the following benefits:

  • Relieves stress, anxiety, & depression
  • Lowers blood pressure & heart rate
  • Decreases chronic pain & muscle tension

In biofeedback, you will learn how to control your breathing, by slowing down the breath and breathing in a more consistent rhythm with the help of external instruments. Our biofeedback devices monitor biological processes, such as breathing rate and heart rate, to help you become more aware of how you are breathing and how you might learn to control these processes in every day life.

Biofeedback is a way to learn to recognize physiological responses, such as the stress response (also called the fight or flight response), and alter these responses by learning to control them, rather than having them control you. It was once thought that most physiological processes were involuntary, but biofeedback has shown that when you are told how you are doing, in terms of heart rate and skin temperature (higher skin temperature means you’re more relaxed), you can influence these processes. Through consistent practice, you can learn to influence the body such that the relaxation response occurs.

What is the Fight or Flight Response?

When individuals feel threatened or stressed, the body may undergo physiological changes influenced by the sympathetic nervous system that mobilize the body for fighting or fleeing. This physiological reaction results in adrenaline being released into the body and is characterized by muscle tension, strong emotions (e.g. terror, fright, anxiety, anger), and increased heart rate and blood pressure, which helps the body to move quickly if called upon to fight or run.

While the fight or flight response is adaptive in life threatening situations, when you’re chronically stressed and live every day as if it were an emergency, negative consequences may result in:

  • Increased heart rate & blood pressure, lowered resistance to colds/flu
  • Self-destructive behaviors (e.g. overworking, overeating, hyperactivity)
  • Substance abuse (e.g. alcohol, drugs, caffeine)
  • Depression, anxiety, memory & concentration problems

What is the Relaxation Response?

When individuals feel very relaxed (the opposite of the fight or flight response), the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated and the body responds accordingly:

  • Decreased stress, anxiety, & depression
  • Decreased blood pressure & heart rate
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved memory & concentration

This is called the relaxation response. Several practices have been shown to encourage the relaxation response, including biofeedback, meditation, and prayer.

Biofeedback Devices Available at the Relaxation Room

When individuals feel very relaxed (the opposite of the fight or flight response), the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated and the body responds accordingly:

  • emWave
    The emWave can be used to bring balance to the mind and body by helping control and coordinate the breath rate and the heart rate, and simultaneously focusing on a positive emotion.
  • ResPerate
    The RespeRate can be used to lower blood pressure and calm the mind as you listen to healing sounds that help regulate your breathing.