Newsletter 3, Heart Rate Variability
September 2012

 

Newsletter #3, Sept. 2012

 

My Practice is now in Pirimai with easy accessibility and parking

 



Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback

This modality is one of the interventions that I use with clients to teach psychophysiological calming and to demonstrate how their thoughts impact on their body. I have included belowe, a simple description of the technique taken from the website of the equipment supplier, Heartmath. Please visit their web site (heartmath.com) to obtain more information.

The heart is a primary generator of rhythmic patterns in the human body, and possesses a far more extensive communication system with the brain than do other major organs. In addition, the heart plays a particularly important role in the generation of emotion. With every beat, the heart transmits complex patterns of neurological, hormonal, pressure, and electromagnetic information to the brain and throughout the body. As a critical nodal point in many interacting systems - physiological, cognitive and emotional - the heart is uniquely positioned as a powerful entry point into the communication network that connects body, mind, emotions and spirit.

Doc Childre and the research team at the Institute of HeartMath (IHM) have shown that techniques which combine intentional heart focus with the generation of sustained positive feelings lead to a beneficial mode of physiological function they have termed psychophysiological coherence. Correlates of psychophysiological coherence include a sine wave-like pattern in the heart rhythms, increased heart-brain synchronisation (alpha rhythms become more synchronised to the heart) and entrainment between the heart's rhythmic patterns, respiration, blood pressure rhythms and other physiological systems. Although psychophysiological coherence is a natural state that can occur spontaneously while people are feeling genuine positive emotions and during sleep, sustained periods are generally rare.

During states of psychophysiological coherence, our inner systems function with a higher degree of synchronisation, efficiency and harmony which correlates with improved emotional stability, quality of emotional experience, health, and cognitive performance. HeartMath studies conducted across diverse populations have associated increased psychophysiological coherence with reduced anxiety and depression, decreased physical symptoms of stress, enhanced immunity, reduced cortisol and increased DHEA.2-6 IHM has collaborated with Stanford University and other institutions in studies which have shown that heart centered techniques and psychophysiological coherence facilitate the body's healing processes and improve physical health outcomes. For example, improvements in clinical status have been demonstrated in individuals with hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, asthma and AIDS.7-11

The emWave, developed by Doc Childre, is a unique heart rhythm coherence training system. It objectively monitors your heart rhythms and confirms when you are in the coherence mode. It helps you learn to self-generate coherence and track your progress. With practice you learn how to shift into coherence at will, even in difficult situations which previously would have drained your emotional vitality and buoyancy. You will readily see and experience changes in your heart rhythm patterns as you practice emotional regulation techniques. Your heart rhythms generally become less irregular, and sine wave-like as you send more heart-felt love and appreciation through your system.

How is emWave different from heart rate monitors?
emWave is very different from devices that simply measure heart rate. It is measuring the subtle beat-to-beat changes in your heart rate and showing you the rhythmic patterns over time. This is called heart rate variability (HRV) analysis. emWave also analyzes your heart rhythm pattern for coherence, which other HRV monitors do not do. In addition to seeing your heart rhythm in real-time, your coherence or entrainment level is displayed as an accumulated score.

How does this differ from deep breathing?
While certain rhythmic breathing exercises can induce coherence, research shows that increased benefits are achieved by actively adding a positive feeling such as appreciation, love, compassion, etc. Generating a positive emotion makes it easier to sustain coherence for longer periods, even during challenging situations. Sincere feelings of love and appreciation have a much wider range of health and wholeness healing benefits than simply forcing the system into coherence with breathing techniques alone. Learning to send feelings of love and appreciation through your system while breathing through the heart adds a dynamic set of benefits to emotional self-management and healing. Many describe their accumulative subjective experiences as an increased ability to "live more from the heart" in alignment with their core values and with greater connection to spirit.

How are emotions connected to the heart?
HeartMath research has shown that emotions are reflected in our heart rhythm patterns. These patterns are transmitted from the heart to the higher brain centers and have profound effects on the way the brain processes information. Feelings of frustration and anxiety cause the heart rhythms to become more disordered and irregular, which inhibits the higher brain centers, causing energy drains, insecurities, and glitches in your decision making functions. Intentionally generated feelings of love and appreciation, on the other hand, progressively increase your ratio of access to clear and effective thinking, problem-solving discernment, memory recall, and an increased connection with your core values. This is because emotions of high quality produce more ordered and coherent heart rhythms, which reduce nervous system chaos and facilitate cortical function.
12, 13

The analysis of HRV, or heart rhythms, is recognised as a powerful, non-invasive measure that reflects heart-brain interactions and autonomic nervous system dynamics, which are particularly sensitive to changes in emotional state.14, 15IHM research showing how emotions are reflected in the patterns of our heart rhythms has led to a new model of emotion. This model includes the heart, brain, nervous and hormonal systems as fundamental components of a dynamic, interactive network that underlies emotional experience.1, 2IHM has provided scientific evidence that the heart is truly part of the emotional system, which most people intuitively have known all along. Indeed, most religious and spiritual traditions, regardless of cultural context, have emphasized the value of experiencing and expressing "qualities of the heart" - feelings such as love, care, gratitude, appreciation, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness--all of which can increase heart rhythm coherence.

Who uses emWave?
emWave has been successfully used in diverse settings by mental health professionals, physicians, educators, corporate executives, managers, athletic coaches and trainers, and individuals interested in advancing their personal development or improving their well-being. Many HeartMath clients report that using this system has enabled them to develop the capacity to self-orchestrate their own benefits, such as emotional stability and intuitive discernment. This reduces energy loss from stress, makes deeper relationships possible, and enables people to increase their ratios of fulfillment.

What are some of the benefits I could expect?
Nearly every frequent user of the emWave reports

  • reduced stress,

  • increased energy and resilience,

  • greater mental clarity for decision-making and creativity,

  • enhanced emotional balance, and improved listening ability.

This translates into a variety of additional personal and professional benefits:

  • Teams have reported greater creativity, increased efficiency, and reduced stress from using emWave during meetings or individually.

  • Sales and customer service managers report increased sensitivity on the part of personnel trained in emWave to the needs of their customers, often leading to increased sales and/or customer satisfaction

  • Athletes have reported surprising improvements in golf scores, tennis prowess and other athletic activities.

  • Parents report calming and balancing effects with children, and studies indicate profound improvements in test-taking skill.

References
1. McCraty, R. Heart-brain neurodynamics: The making of emotions. In: Watkins A. and Childre D., eds. HeartMath: The Science of Emotional Sovereignty. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers; In press.
2. McCraty, R., Barrios-Choplin, B., Rozman, D., Atkinson, M. and Watkins, A. The impact of a new emotional self-management program on stress, emotions, heart rate variability, DHEA and cortisol. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science. 1998; 33(2):151-170.
3. McCraty, R. HeartMath learning enhancement programs improve academic performance and behavior in school children. In: Proceedings of the Futurehealth Winter Brain Meeting. Miami, FL, 2001.
4. Barrios-Choplin, B., McCraty, R. and Cryer, B. An inner quality approach to reducing stress and improving physical and emotional wellbeing at work. Stress Medicine. 1997; 13:193-201.
5. McCraty, R., Tomasino, D., Atkinson, M. and Sundram, J. Impact of the HeartMath self-management skills program on physiological and psychological stress in police officers. Boulder Creek, CA: HeartMath Research Center, Institute of HeartMath, Publication No. 99-075.
6. Rein, G., Atkinson, M. and McCraty, R. The physiological and psychological effects of compassion and anger. Journal of Advancement in Medicine. 1995; 8(2):87-105.
7. McCraty, R., Atkinson, M. and Tomasino, D. HeartMath risk reduction program reduces blood pressure and improves psychological well-being in individuals with hypertension. Manuscript in preparation.
8. McCraty, R., Atkinson, M. and Lipsenthal, L. Emotional self-regulation program enhances psychological health and quality of life in patients with diabetes. Manuscript in preparation.
9. Luskin, F., Reitz, M. and Newell, K. Pilot study of a group stress management training on elderly patients with congestive heart failure. Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation. 2000; 20(5):303.
10. Rozman, D., Whitaker, R., Beckman, T. and Jones, D. A pilot intervention program which reduces psychological symptomatology in individuals with human immunodeficiency virus. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 1996; 4:226-232.
11. Lehrer, P., Smetankin, A. and Potapova, T. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia biofeedback therapy for asthma: A report of 20 unmedicated pediatric cases. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. 2000; 25(3):193-200.
12. McCraty, R. and Atkinson, M. Psychophysiological coherence. In: Watkins A. and Childre D., eds. HeartMath: The Science of Emotional Sovereignty. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers; In press.
13. Tiller, W., McCraty, R. and Atkinson, M. Cardiac coherence: A new, noninvasive measure of autonomic nervous system order. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 1996; 2(1):52-65.
14. McCraty, R., Atkinson, M., Tiller, W. A., Rein, G. and Watkins, A. The effects of emotions on short term heart rate variability using power spectrum analysis. American Journal of Cardiology. 1995; 76:1089-1093.
15. McCraty, R. and Singer, D. Heart rate variability: A measure of autonomic balance and physiological coherence. In: Watkins A. and Childre D., eds. HeartMath: The Science of Emotional Sovereignty. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers; In press.