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Biofeedback & Heart Rate Variability

Heart rate variability is a form of biofeedback, a technique and modality used to teach individuals how to better control their body’s functions, such as their heart rate.  In changing your heart rhythm pattern, you can create coherence, which is a sense of “harmony in both our psychological and physiological processes”. This is done through the use of electrical sensors that are placed on your finger that receive information about your body. Using the information received, you can train your mind and body to maintain an optimal level of coherence, or connection, thus reducing symptoms.

The heart and Brain

The heart and brain work in connection with each other, with the heart sending more signals to the brain than the brain does the heart.  These signals influence our emotional processing, attention, focus, and memory. When our heart rhythm pattern is unregulated or has low variability,  it creates heavy feelings, such as stress, and limits our cognitive ability. This would explain why we don’t always make the best decisions when we are overly stressed or we experience analysis paralysis. When our heart rhythm pattern is regulated and has increased variability, the more positive emotions we will feel and our cognitive functioning improves. This can also be referred to as a wise mind state.

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Incoherent: Dysregulated, Frustrated, and/or Stressed 

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Coherent: Regulated, Joyful, and/or Greatful

Why Is This Important?

Not only does this have a profound impact on our emotional state, it is a “marker of physiological resilience and behavioral flexibility” and impacts our ability to navigate difficult or overwhelming situations.  As we age, our heart variability naturally declines. Those with low variability for their age group are at an increased risk for health problems and illnesses. Practicing heart rate variability over time can help increase variability and therefore improve both emotional and physical health.

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How To Achieve Coherence?

Factors that can help improve your level of coherence include regulated breathing on a 10 second rhythm (5 seconds in, 5 seconds out), setting a positive intention and focusing on items that bring you joy, gratitude and an overall positive state.  In doing theses techniques in combination, your heart rhythm will transition into a coherence state and will reinforce your breathing style.

Pictures credited to: Heartmath

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