What is HRV?
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a measure of the beat-to-beat changes in heart rate; it is the variation in the time interval between heartbeats. Analyzing the variation in heartbeats is an accurate predictor of how we handle stress. If we have high HRV, we can handle stress better. If we have low HRV we become easily overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, and suffer with anxiety and depression. No matter where we start on this scale of stress reaction, we have the ability, with the right training, to improve HRV in our favor and therefore improve our ability to cope and adapt to daily stressors.
The effect of heart rate activity on brain function has been researched extensively over the past 40 years. Earlier research mainly examined the effects of heart rate activity occurring in just a few consecutive heartbeats. Scientists at the HeartMath Institute have extended this body of scientific research by looking at longer time frames of heart rate activity and the effects on mood and brain functioning. HeartMath research has demonstrated that different patterns of heart activity (which accompany different emotional states) have distinct effects on cognitive and emotional function. During stress and negative emotions, when the heart rhythm pattern is erratic and disordered, the corresponding pattern of neural signals traveling from the heart to the brain inhibits higher cognitive functions. This limits our ability to think clearly, remember, learn, reason, and make effective decisions. (This helps explain why we may often act impulsively and unwisely when we’re under stress.) The heart’s input to the brain during stressful or negative emotions also has a profound effect on the brain’s emotional processes—actually serving to reinforce the emotional experience of stress.
In contrast, the more ordered and stable pattern of the heart’s input to the brain during positive emotional states has the opposite effect—it facilitates cognitive function and reinforces positive feelings and emotional stability. This means that learning to generate increased heart rhythm coherence, by sustaining positive emotions, not only benefits the entire body, but also profoundly affects how we perceive, think, feel, and perform.
HRV training benefits mood disorders:
Low Coherence or HRV is associated with anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, and major depressive disorders as well as substance abuse and cravings. Mather (2020) reported that 5 weeks of slow-paced breathing training to produce the desired high-amplitude HR variability increased the functional connectivity between the left amygdala and the prefrontal cortex allowing us to better regulate emotional activation.
HRV training benefits autonomic dysregulation:
HRV practice mobilizes the vagal parasympathetic brake and enhances regulation in the autonomic nervous system. Therefore any conditions that have affected the autonomic nervous system may benefit from HRV biofeedback. Reduced HRV is an index for lowered parasympathetic and vagal influence allowing for autonomic dysregulation.
Additional conditions for HRV Applications based on positive research:
- Chronic muscle pain
- Coronary artery disease, high blood pressure
- Traumatic brain disease
How do we achieve high heart rate variability?
High heart rate variability is achieved by combining timed breathing along with activation of positive thoughts for an established period of time. Benefits are received in the moment of training but daily practice has more profound long term benefits. At EVND we use a breath pacer that helps you pace your breath which will be determined at the initial HRV appointment as well a variety of biofeedback tools in office and your own biofeedback device to give you guidance as to whether you are on target for achieving coherence, and ultimately the desirable increase in heart rate variability.
EVND HRV PROGRAM SPECIFICS:
The 8 week Stress Resilience Program consists of 3 personal in-office training appointments followed by weekly coaching sessions. The coaching sessions solidify the training and practice of heart rate training by providing specific feedback on your training progress while also giving encouragement, tips for success, and guidance to resolve training challenges. You will be sufficiently equipped and trained in this amazing tool by our certified HRV coaches. With the current HRV technology we are able to determine the optimal breathing rate for each person during our in office appointments. You will be equipped with the necessary software and HRV biofeedback sensors to continue a daily HRV stress resilience practice on your own. We utilize the HeartMath and Inner Balance™ self-regulation technology which is based on 32 plus years of scientific research on the psychophysiology of stress, resilience, and the interactions between the heart and brain.