Mental wellbeing is a hot topic, but the tools HR has available to address it are limited. A new category of tools is on the way that use biofeedback to improve mood, reduce anxiety and maybe even reduce age-related cognitive decline.
Biofeedback involves monitoring the brain via an EEG headset and showing the subject the result. Biofeedback itself is not new and in fact, was quite the faddish topic in the 1970s. What has changed since then is both improved academic research and more affordable tools. An EEG headset such as “Mindwave” sells for around $100, and the software to provide biofeedback typically runs on a smartphone or tablet.
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The most straightforward applications aid meditation by playing music when you hit the right mental state (e.g. Muse, xSensa Flow). Work on combating cognitive decline (xSensa Ride) is still in the research stage.
What is interesting
- Learning to use biofeedback can be frustrating because it’s not self-evident what you are doing to get the output; you just try to “think” a certain way.
- Perhaps we’ll soon see biofeedback headsets in startup company lounges right alongside the foosball tables.
What is really important
- There is serious science to support the idea that biofeedback can affect the brain, even to the point of having an impact on white matter and grey matter.
- There are many companies exploring this space so expect to see a host of tools addressing different issues (anxiety, insomnia, inability to focus, depression, stress, etc.).