So yesterday Kasper wrote a post on Pomodoro technique which is something I really like and I haven’t thought about in a long time, reading that got me really productive again despite the release of GTA 5… ok so I still played a lot of GTA 5 but I was productive too.
It also got me to thinking, even though I have my own routines and techniques, a lot of them focus on technology… so where Kasper is bringing you great content on how he manages to be such an effective teacher, long distance runner and musician… I figured I’d get to Geeking out and focus on technology for now!
- Biofeedback is a technique where we use technology to teach ourselves about the way the body works in ways we don’t usually understand. From that understanding we can learn to make ourselves better in many different ways.
- The Upgraded focus Brain Trainer uses HEG feedback to improve our decision making, planning and focus abilities (as well as some other added benefits.)
- I love this thing.
I’m going to write up some demo routines and things I think are useful to incorporate into a schedule soon, as well as an introduction to biofeedback for anyone that’s new to it – I always think people will know about this stuff, but it seems a lot of people are just hearing about it.
For a simple definition let’s go to wikipedia:
“Biofeedback is the process of gaining greater awareness of many physiological functions primarily using instruments that provide information on the activity of those same systems, with a goal of being able to manipulate them at will. Some of the processes that can be controlled include brainwaves, muscle tone, skin conductance, heart rate and pain perception.
Biofeedback may be used to improve health, performance, and the physiological changes which often occur in conjunction with changes to thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Eventually, these changes may be maintained without the use of extra equipment, even though no equipment is necessarily required to practice biofeedback.”
Simply put: Biofeedback is using gadgets, tools and technology to give you an understanding of what your body does and then learning to affect that in one way or another. A heart rate monitor is a biofeedback device for instance, it tells you how fast your heart is beating after all. In recent times more gadgets have been released and are becoming popular, meaning that in addition to basic things, we can understand a vast array of different variables. The rhythm of your heartbeats can be measured and understood using a heart rate variability device like the EmWave2, which helps you understand your stress levels and through using it, you can learn to lower those stress levels until there is a permanent change and your stress is reduced in your day to day life. Through using these devices, we can learn to affect parts of our body that we have never understood before and once we understand that, we can use it to teach ourselves to be focused, less stressed, happier, better at decision making and potentially even smarter.
Today I’m going to quickly talk about this device:
The Upgraded Focus Brain Trainer. I got mine on the first release a few months ago, and noticed an immediate effect after using it (which is rare, as a lot of biofeedback takes time and work to see the benefits.) The goal of it is (you guessed it) to increase your ability to focus… and I have found it can do that in a pretty amazing way… especially for someone who has a really, really hard time focusing.
The basic idea behind the device is that it uses infrared to check how much blood flow is in the prefrontal cortex – part of your brain that deals with focus, decision-making and long-term planning. It does not ‘do’ anything to your brain, it simply tells you what is happening inside it. You attach it to your forehead and see that you have a certain amount of blood flow in that region of the brain. The readings are often confusing at first but you’ll get used to the numbers as they go up and down and you learn how to affect them. The goal is to make the numbers rise, and to do this for a 5 minutes, 3 times a week (you can do more or less at your own discretion but this seems like a good goal at first.)
When the upgraded focus arrives it looks like a hack job, and it kinda is! It’s made by the inventor I believe in his own home, and there are only about 200 in existence at the moment. It will come with a CD but you can get a copy of the software via email from the inventor too, as well as updates to it.
You install the HEG Studio software from the CD, plug in the device and off you go on a new adventure into the world of biofeedback. It only takes moments to put it on and click on the software icon, so there’s no complexity, it’s all really easy and convenient… at first it might be frustrating – this is not for relaxation, it’s to improve the way your brain works, and to quote the website it’s like “lifting weights for the brain.” Don’t give into the temptation (I did) to hold your nose and blow, as this will send the readings sky-high and make you feel good for a few seconds before crashing back down… focusing on the screen you’ll start to notice more and more as the blood flow increases. I find it very helpful to imagine lots of healthy red blood being pumped to that part of my brain, and when I do the chart goes up.
Now it comes with an animation too… at the moment the only one I have working is of a playset:
but there are others available… one where you’re flying through the air looks very fun, I’m going to email the inventor and ask for an update so I can use the extra animation. When you look at the animation, the experience becomes pretty much like a game… you just focus on moving the animation forwards and learning how to do it bit by bit is a personal journey, and it’s pretty fun!
To briefly understand the results (plus the accompanying placebo effect) I will just say that in my own words… it’s like having adderall… without having adderall. Not entirely I’m sure but it definitely helps me focus, to what extent that’s a psychological reaction and to what extent it is the direct result of the device’s intended use is up for discussion. But I promise you one thing… when I use the upgraded focus… I get work done. About 10 minutes after I’ve used is usually I suddenly feel different, and instead of ‘just finishing one more level’ on Grand Theft Auto… I do my accounting, and I call my assistant, for that alone I think it’s worth a look.
It’s a little expensive at the moments I completely acknowledge that, but where I might get more bothered at certain biofeedback devices and their exorbitant price tags… I feel like this one was and is worth every penny, and I’m really happy that I bought it. It’s my favourite biofeedback device… I even used it before I wrote this article!