HeartMath is a biofeedback-based program that incorporates the science of Heart Rate Variability as a marker to determine and alter the functioning state of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). This system is often discussed in terms of “fight or flight” versus “rest and repair” or “feed and breed”. These ANS states are technically termed sympathetic and parasympathetic, respectively.
https://www.heartmath.org/science/ Videos and description of HRV – what it is and what it is not!
Essentially, the proven coaching techniques in conjunction with the biofeedback software train the brain and heart to be in “coherence”. This optimizes, orders and resets the ANS to default to the healing parasympathetic state.
Here is a video by HeartMath co-founder Rollin McCraty explaining a bit more about the science behind HeartMath.
Six weeks of biofeedback training with coaching, in conjunction with at-home practice time, is all it takes to see measurable changes in performance or behaviors as well as in physiological markers. Things like measurable increase in response to an anti-viral medication while reducing anxiety for AIDS patients recovering from substance abuse, decreased anxiety in adolescents with eating disorders, improved academic performance in students, reduced chronic pain in veterans and even management of hypertension are seen throughout the abundance of research. You can take a look at some of it here.
Retraining the Autonomic Nervous System to “default” to a parasympathetic state, rather than the typical, modern sympathetic stress response is a great way to take control of one’s health. Having tools to reset the body after stress and to better prepare can make a measurable difference in all facets of life and for future wellness!
By retraining the limbic system to stay calm and organized, predictive health measures can be impacted daily. This means that we can each shift the physiological indicators that are used in the medical community to predict risk of disease development. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is used to predict things from longevity to heart-attack risk and survival to diabetes to PTSD and mood disorders. It also effectively enhances the immune system for a more effective protective effect.
For HeartMath to make a difference, there is no monthly refill cost and upkeep needed beyond the time and the commitment to establish the coherence techniques in daily routines. This process generally takes six sessions over six to eight weeks for a fundamental understanding and application of the HeartMath technique. Practice can be done silently and stealthily at a desk, while hiking in nature or even during a stressful commute. For these reasons, HeartMath training is highly sustainable!
HeartMath for Children (Smart Brain, Wise Heart)
At UWA we now offer HeartMath biofeedback training for children ages 9 to 16 to teach self-management through Heart Rate Variability or Autonomic Nervous System re-entrainment or calming techniques. This gives children tools for managing stress and maneuvering emotions.
Children trained in emotional self-regulation have more tools for facing the everyday challenges of life. In the January 2011 issue of Child Development magazine, a meta-analysis of social and emotional learning programs like HeartMath for children revealed a statistically significant improvement in academic performance, attitudes and behavior in those trained to self-manage their emotions.
In the peer-reviewed journal Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science, another study showed overall improvement by middle-school students taught HeartMath techniques. For participating students an improvement was seen in cognitive function, mental clarity, health measures and emotional balance. This included anger and stress management, reduced risk-taking, improved personal relationships and improved academic performance. Impressive!
In children, emotional self-management techniques using Heart-Rate Variability have been shown to decrease anxiety symptoms, improve conduct and social behavior, calm obsessive compulsive behavior and improve attention in children.
The folks at the HeartMath Institute developed a powerful at-home curriculum entitled Smart Brain, Wise Heart to be used in conjunction with the biofeedback program, HeartMath coaching, which is provided at our office. It is an easy to watch, interactive program with videos and learning scenarios to help develop emotional self-management skills in the young.
Smart Brain, Wise Heart Sample:
When can HeartMath help?
Peer-reviewed medical research and clinical trials have demonstrated that HeartMath can successfully be used clinically to support the following:
- Atopic Dermatitis
- Cardiovascular Rehab
- Chronic Pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Diabetes Type l and Type ll
- Environmental Sensitivity
- Headaches: tension type and migraine
- Immune system dysfunction
- Immune System Dysfunction
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Muscle spasticity
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Recurrent abdominal pain
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (complex regional pain syndrome)
- Tics/Tourette’s syndrome
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Ulcerative Colitis
- And more…
By optimizing the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) function, hormone shifts occur. Hormone ratio changes reduce the impact of stress. These measured changes induced by HeartMath use include:
- Increased longevity
- Improved memory
- Increased resilience to adversity
- Increased cognitive flexibility, creativity and intelligence
- Improved job performance and achievement
- Increased happiness!