Neurofeedback is a non-invasive, painless practice that guides and teaches a person’s brain healthier functioning through real-time monitoring of brainwave activity and feedback. An individual’s brain learns, through operant conditioning, to perform at optimal levels and continues to self-regulate at these levels after training. Because your brain is involved in literally every aspect of your body, having a better functioning brain can relieve the symptoms of many physical and mental health conditions.

Brain training can optimize brain wave amplitudes, enhance connectivity between parts of the brain, and adjust the amount of activity and responsiveness of specific regions of the brain. Neurofeedback is proven by science and has been around for decades. NASA even uses it to help astronauts improve focus and mental clarity.

Neurofeedback Is Exercise for Your Brain

Neurofeedback training works and trains your brain. As with physical exercise, supporting and encouraging your brain with consistency and repetition are crucial to see the most change. We want you to get the best positive results from your neurofeedback training, and you can ensure that happens by practicing activities that nurture and bolster your brain. Your behavior and habits matter all the time — but especially when training your brain. After your initial training is complete, we recommend that you train once a month for maintenance and live a brain-healthy lifestyle to keep your brain at peak performance.

Here’s How to Get the Best Results from Your Training

Train consistently

Neurofeedback leverages the brain’s capacity to alter its form and function based on input. This capability is known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity works under the same conditions that physical exercise does for the body. You’re not going to see much benefit from a single yoga class or one run. However, the same practices done with consistency, over time, will gradually have noticeable, lasting effects on your body. The same is true for the practices that shape your physical brain and its operation.

Make sleep a priority

Every part of your body is affected by sleep — or lack of it, but it impacts your brain the most. Your brain’s entire electrical and chemical systems depend on sleep. During sleep, the brain clears metabolic waste and toxins that accumulate while you’re awake.

Sleep is crucial in supporting neuroplasticity and learning. During sleep, the brain processes and stores information gathered throughout the day to accomplish retention and learning. When brain training, your brain processes, consolidates, and makes permanent what was learned in that day’s session during that night’s sleep. It’s imperative that you get seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night when training.

girl sleeping in bed

Allow yourself to rest

Research tells us that while the brain represents just two percent of a person’s total body weight, it accounts for 20 percent of the body’s energy use — and that’s under normal circumstances. While training, you’re going to feel more mentally tired than normal. That’s healthy and expected. Remember, your brain is working, changing, and growing. Whenever you can, let yourself take a mental and physical break or a nap. If possible, try not to do overly mentally taxing activities on the days you train.

Feed your brain well

Supporting your brain with high quality nutrition will help training be more successful. What you eat directly impacts what goes on in your brain. A brain-healthy diet can improve your energy, mood, and focus throughout the day and ensure that your brain has the fuel it needs to make beneficial changes. An intelligent diet full of good-for-you brain food would include lots of protein, fish, complex carbohydrates, leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats.

Your brain is 20 percent water. Staying hydrated is important for brain health because the brain does not store water. The only way to replenish it is to drink more.

Avoid caffeine before training

We love our coffee too! But that daily dose of caffeine won’t help your brain in neurofeedback training. When you drink coffee or a caffeinated beverage before training, your brain is already functioning at a higher than normal speed, making it more challenging to train. This doesn’t mean you can’t train your brain; it just means you’re more likely to feel anxious during your session and that day may not be as effective as it could be.

It would be ideal if you could come to each session with a brain that’s not caffeinated. Also, it’s best not to drink alcohol or use marijuana or other substances for 24-hours prior to training. For optimal results, you will want to refrain from vaping or smoking one hour prior to training. All of it affects your brain activity.

exercise to stay healthy

Move your body

Your brain needs you to move your body to stay healthy. The science is overwhelmingly clear that exercise improves almost every aspect of brain and mental health. Exercise increases blood flow to your brain which elevates oxygen levels. During exercise, a neuroprotective molecule, called BDNF — which is like fertilizer for your brain — is produced. BDNF is a key molecule involved in neuroplastic change.

While it’s recommended that you get 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily — when brain training and otherwise, that may not always be possible. When it’s not, focus on getting whatever amount of exercise you can. Think “move” — just move your body going up and down stairs, walking in place while talking on the phone, or getting to your car in the parking lot. Even small amounts of exercise have benefits and will encourage brain change during training.

Have a motivated attitude

As an adult, the ability of your brain to change is influenced by your attitude about it and how motivated you are. According to Dr. Michael Merzenich, the neuroscientist and researcher who first confirmed neuroplasticity at the University of California, San Francisco in the 1970s:

  1. Change is mostly limited to those situations in which the brain is in the mood for it.
    If you are alert, on the ball, engaged, motivated, and ready for action, the brain releases the neurochemicals necessary to enable brain change. When disengaged, inattentive, distracted, or doing something without thinking that requires no real effort, your neuroplastic switches are mostly “off.”
  2. The harder you try, the more you’re motivated, the more alert you are, and the better (or worse) the potential outcome, the bigger the brain change.
    If you’re intensely focused on the task and really trying to master something for an important reason, the change experienced will be greater. Creating a positive mindset will encourage change.

Practice slow, deep, breathing

Taking slow, deep breaths through your nose into your diaphragm with slow exhales instantly calms your brain and body and delivers more oxygen to your brain. Slow breathing engages your parasympathetic (calming) nervous system and turns down the body’s stress response. A stressed brain can’t learn. When stress recedes, you have full access to your thinking brain and can focus. Slow breathing is excellent to practice during a training session and at other times throughout your day.

Journal about your experience

Journaling about your experiences and impressions during neurofeedback training is a great way to manage any emotions that arise. Training your brain might bring feelings, memories, or sensations to the surface that you’ll want to document and process. Journaling about your impressions before and after sessions is a great way to track your progress and see subtle changes occurring in your mental state and behavior.

Stay connected, have fun, and be grateful

Make the effort to reach out to friends or family members regularly who can provide emotional support and practical help — when training and at other times. Being around and with other people causes your brain to release neurochemicals that help keep it happy and healthy. Your brain wants to be connected and included and feels calmer and happier when it is.

emotional supportive girl

Have fun and laugh. When you smile or laugh your brain releases mood-boosting dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. Dopamine works on the reward-pleasure circuits in the brain. All of these neurochemicals reduce anxiety and stress and encourage neuroplastic change. Your brain will benefit similarly from practicing gratitude. A calm, happy brain learns better.

Neurofeedback Training Leads to a Better Brain and Life

When you begin neurofeedback training, you are taking steps to better your brain and life. From the day you’re born until the day you die, your brain is changing — whether it’s to your benefit or not. A lot of the time, it’s not. Neurofeedback allows you to consciously harness the process and direct it to help you transform your brain and life for the better.

Neurofeedback successfully improves many conditions, including depression, autism, ADD and ADHD, brain injuries, concussions, OCD, stroke recovery, PTSD, addictions, seizure disorders, migraines, chronic pain, IBS and leaky gut, and more. By fine-tuning brain function, neurofeedback can also improve focus and concentration. For example, neurofeedback brain training can improve a person’s performance at school, golf or other sports, or work.

At Grey Matters, we are passionate about helping people live their best lives, including optimizing their brain’s health and operation. Give us a call at (317) 215-7208 or send us a message today to talk about how we can help you.