As a HeartMath Certified Sports Practitioner, I use HeartMath Biofeedback technology myself and with several clients and find it to be a very beneficial technique to a more relaxed, altered state of mind. I’ve also used it as the basis of a stress management program that I have deployed at some companies.
Inner balance for me is a mental state that is calm and at high levels of cognitive function. Research shows that combining biofeedback and mindfulness meditation techniques can improve inner balance to a whole new level.
Biofeedback is a technique that uses sensors to monitor physiological responses, such as heart rate and respiration, and provides feedback in form of graphs to the user in real time. This feedback can help people to recognize their mental state or be mindful on a whole-different level and be able to self-regulate their emotions for higher performance or mental calmness by applying mindfulness meditation or psychotherapy techniques.
HeartMath is a non-profit research institute that focuses on the connection between the heart and the brain, and how this connection can impact our health, emotions, and performance. They have conducted a wide range of research on this topic, and have developed a number of tools and techniques to help people improve their heart-brain coherence. So let us learn about HeartMath and about their amazing tools and devices that help achieve inner balance.
The Connection between HRV, ANS, Pain & Mood
One of the key concepts in HeartMath’s research is heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is a measure of the variation in the time between heartbeats, and it is an indicator of the health and balance of the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
The autonomic nervous system regulates the activities you do without thinking about them (involuntary movements). The ANS can be subdivided into the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) can play a major role in sustaining chronic pain. The SNS is the part of the Autonomic Nervous System which prepares the body for stressful or emergency situations and promotes the flight or fight response. An overloaded SNS can heighten anxiety which in turn amplifies pain perception, effects pain behaviour and depresses mood.
How HeartMath Technology Works
HeartMath’s research has shown that HRV can be influenced by our emotions, and that higher HRV is associated with better health and well-being. HeartMath has developed a number of tools and techniques to help people improve their HRV resulting in improved heart coherence.
The basis of their techniques is that self-induced positive emotions can increase the coherence in bodily processes, and is reflected in the pattern of the heart’s rhythm. This shift in the heart rhythm in turn plays an important role in facilitating higher cognitive functions, creating emotional stability and facilitating states of calm.
HeartMath provides all the necessary tools including sensors and mobile app based techniques to implement heart coherence inducing biofeedback therapy. The techniques or guided mindfulness exercises are developed and produced by professional practitioners.
HeartMath techniques: HeartMath has developed a number of specific mindfulness or mindset coaching techniques, such as the Freeze-Frame technique and the Quick Coherence technique, that can help people shift their emotional state and improve their HRV.
Implementing these tools and techniques is relatively simple as the organization provides some excellent user manuals and training programs.
Research on Biofeedback Techniques Utilized by HeartMath
HeartMath’s research has been published in a number of peer-reviewed journals, and their tools and techniques have been used by millions of people around the world.
These key publications below can be used to understand their core principles and sparking further explorations:
The Appreciative Heart: The Psychophysiology of Positive Emotions and Optimal Functioning (McCraty, Atkinson, & Bradley, 2005): This paper outlines the concept of physiological coherence, a state associated with positive emotions and characterized by specific patterns in heart rate variability (HRV). It presents research data linking coherence to improved health, performance, and emotional well-being.
The Energetic Heart: Bioelectromagnetic Interactions Within and Between People (McCraty, 2020): This book delves into the bioelectromagnetic field generated by the heart and its potential role in communication and influencing others. It explores the concept of “energetic coherence” and potential implications for social interactions and health.
Following the Rhythm of the Heart: HeartMath Institute’s Path to HRV Biofeedback (McCraty, Atkinson, & Bradley, 2022): This paper outlines the early history and contributions of the HeartMath Institute and its advisors and collaborators in the field of heart rate variability and heart rate variability coherence biofeedback. In addition to the many health and wellness benefits of HRV feedback for facilitating skill acquisition of self-regulation techniques for stress reduction and performance enhancement, its applications for increasing social coherence and physiological synchronization among groups is also discussed.
Heart rate variability is certainly a subject that is attracting a lot of attention from the health, fitness and longevity communities. Having the ability where you can graphically view the changes in heart rate variability and then take control of your performance can be an effective biofeedback technique. Hearthmath’s store offers some great sensors and programs to help you implement the principles of achieving inner balance and heart coherence. In short, you can create a sustainable change by monitoring your stats on the app and applying simple mindfulness lessons to improve your life.