Depression and Biofeedback

To some people the term “biofeedback” can sound cool and trendy. For others, it may come across as technical and complicated. In reality, it describes a simple process that takes place inside every one of us several hundred times a day.

Biofeedback is the word that describes the relationship between the mind and the body; the idea that the brain changes its activity based on what the body is doing.

For example, if you’ve ever felt hungry, you’ve engaged in biofeedback. You were thinking about one thing. Then you recognized that you felt hungry. Next, you began thinking about something else, like getting something to eat or checking to see if it was time for lunch yet. The activity of your body changed the activity and focus of your brain.

Here are some ways that we can use biofeedback to help manage depression:

Practice yoga. The stretching, breathing, relaxation, and posture changes in yoga have been shown to help treat depression.

Splash some cold water on your face. If you find yourself stuck in a rut, try splashing some cold water on your face. The stimulus of the water on your face can help slow down your heart rate and indirectly stimulate the vagus nerve – which can improve mood.

Listen to some uplifting music. Music engages much of the limbic system and increases heart rate variability – which can help us better regulate our emotions. Better yet, play some music. Or go dancing.

Smile or laugh. Not in front of a mirror. Not to a friend. Just by yourself. The brain doesn’t register very much of a difference between fake laughter and real laughter. Relax the tension in your face, and let the corners of your mouth drift upward. These actions of the body can begin to shift the activity of the brain. For example, if you begin fake laughing loud enough and long enough, you will probably begin real laughing as think about how silly you’re being.


Eric McClerren, LAPC

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