How can we boost energy? Remain calm in high pressure situations? Stay positive throughout stressful times?
I kept hearing these terms like 'Heart-Brain Coherence' and 'HRV' thrown around in conversation. I have to admit I didn't know what these terms mean. So, I sat down and did a little research.
My studies found this subject to be huge! I was blown-away of the amount positive research done on this topic and how it's not as prevalent in the public's eye.
Let's get to it.
Heart-Brain Coherence is basically put -- our brain and heart communicating to each other at optimal levels. This is other wise known as psycophysicological coherence. When our psychological (mental and emotional) and our physiological (bodily) processes work in union this becomes psychophysiological coherence.
HRV stands for Heart Rate Variability, which is a measurement that is increasingly becoming a huge factor in describing the state of our health and well-being. HRV measures the variance in time between the beats of your heart. We can use this data to assess one's stress, sleep, physical training, and it can even give warning signs of a sickness coming including certain diseases.
Keep reading and I'll tell you all you need to know about these fascinating components and the one way you can learn to control it backed by science!
What is Coherence?
Let's break this down. Dictionary.com states 'coherent' means
All these definitions can be used to explain the basis of Heart-Brain Coherence. Heart and Brain working together harmoniously.
Yea, But Still, What is Heart-Brain Coherence?
Research has shown that the Heart sends more signals to the Brain than vice-a-verse. Actually, a lot more. Like a 9:1 ratio according to the leading researchers at HeartMath.
Factors like physical activity, thoughts, and breathing pattern affects how are our heart beats. In turn these beats become signals sent to our brain.
What's really interesting research is the evidence our emotions corresponding with our heart rate. Meaning our heart has a rhythm for the state of emotion we are currently in! Which, we don't think too often about.
The most obvious one is when we are extremely nervous, we can feel our hearts pounding, right? This panicked heart is sending erratic signals to your brain and your brain can't correspond.
From what I understand, it's like your brain can't comprehend what your heart is saying, thus your brain doesn't know what to do. It prevents your brain from continuing or elevating cognitive functions.
Ever hear of someone saying "I was so scared! I froze!" Ta-da! Now you know why.
With your heart sending these shuffled signals through the neurons to your brain, your brain starts to shut down and doesn't allow you to learn, think clearly, remember, focus, have better judgment, or reason.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Maybe that time you were so stressed you acted on impulse? Or maybe you remember the after affects that goes somewhere along the lines of "I'm sorry I acted that way, I was caught up in the moment."
Yep. I've been there too.
Which, leads to the Heart having a brain. Otherwise, known as the Heart-Brain. Yes, your heart has neurons and it can remember, sense, feel, learn all so it can send signals to the Brain in the head of what the hell is going on!
When your heart is in a more stable mode, a positive emotion, it's sending non-erractic signals to the brain allowing the brain to properly correspond with the heart. Like a perfect synergy.
Taken from HeartMath.Com
Above are Heart Rhythm Patterns during different emotions. I mean, would you want to respond to someone coming at you with that frustration (top) rhythm line?
Heart-Brain Coherence is kind of like watching two amazing tango dancers...dance. While the opposite is watching two non-dancers try to do the tango...just all over the place making a fool out of themselves.
You want your heart and brain doing the tango, together. That's right I said it.
Photo Cred: Marko Zirdum at Pexel
Remember that term that goes something like this "Whatever you put out, you reciprocate." It's kind of like that with the heart and brain. If the heart is putting out bad vibes, the brain reciprocates. If the heart is putting out good vibes, the brain RECIPROCATES!
With a more positive and emotional stable heart the brain can be just as stable or even elevate cognitive functions as well as reinforce the bright emotions you're now having.
What Are The Benefits of Heart-Brain Coherence?
It's beautiful, it's harmonious and the benefits are massive!
- Less Stress
- More calm
- Can reach optimal functions of focus and mental clarity
- Better Sleep and Energy
- Peak physical ability
The quick answer, better overall health!
So, Can I control My Heart-Brain Coherence?
Quick answer, yes. With discipline. And I'll tell you how.
First, I have to tell you the science behind it which leads us to HRV or Heart Rate Variability.
What is Heart Rate Variability (HRV)?
HRV is the measurement of the variance between your heart beats. This is different from your heart's Beats Per Minute (BPM). As your heart can have 70 BPM but it can also have different time intervals between those beats.
The time interval is a naked truth of what your autonomic nervous system (ANS), which regulates our internal organs, is doing.
The ANS is made up of two branches; The Sympathetic nerves (Fight or Flight) and the Parasympathetic nerves (Vagus).
I've seen many analogies of these two branches -- Sympathetic nerves are like pushing the gas, accelerating, or like someone who dives into the pool, no questions asked. While Parasympathetic is the opposite; hitting the brakes, decelerating, or like someone who needs to walk around the pool a couple of times, check the water temperature, and slowly gets in.
These two branches is what we have to learn to control. It's what makes your heart rhythms chaotic or harmonious.
When emotions are balanced, less stress, good sleep, eating healthy, mentally stable, etc. these two branches will help show a higher HRV. However, when not emotionally stable, these branches will start to jerk and push at each other causing that chaotic line you see in the picture above for frustration. This will cause a lower HRV.
The higher the HRV, the healthier one is. Yet, there are certain benchmarks one can not control with HRV like age, gender and genetics. As you age, your HRV will naturally become lower. It's up to you to keep it as high as possible as long as possible.
Image taken from Whoop.Com
Alright! How Can I Keep My HRV High and Reach Heart-Brain Coherence?
The quick answer. Breath work and/or Meditation. Oh, how we come back to this ancient tradition!
Photo Credit: Andrea Piacquadio at Pexel
At HeartMath, they have a technique called 'Quick Coherence.' It's breathing in for five seconds and breathing out for five seconds for 3-5 minutes a couple of times a day. This will quickly get your body to reset and give you coherence for a small amount of time but with lots of practice and discipline, the coherence will last longer. Eventually, you will want to add positive emotions to breathing to help rewire your system.
There are several types of breathing patterns. You may already have one. If you don't, I'd suggest picking up the book "Just Breathe" by Dan Brule. A wonderful book on the insights of all different types of breath works by different breathing masters. It's a great starting point to find breath techniques you might be interested in.
Meditation also helps significantly. As meditation calms the mind, breath and body.
The more disciplined you are with your practice the better results.
With Heart-Brain Coherence the next time a business deal falls through, or your child broke your grandmother's lamp that's been handed down generation to generation, or your hiking weekend trip is canceled due to weather, or I don't know, let's say a pandemic, you'll be more stable, calm and open. You'll focus on the positive allowing yourself to conserve energy.
There are other elements that can affect your HRV, such as your diet, hydration, quality of sleep, and alcohol and drug use.
Let it be known, Heart-Brain Coherence is not relaxation. These are two different terms. Relaxation is when your parasympathetic system takes over and reduces your HRV. While Heart-Brain Coherence has both your parasympathetic and sympathetic systems working at high levels together. Don't get that twisted.
Can I Monitor My HRV?
Yes! There are several tools and apps out now for consumers to track their own HRV and help them practice.
- Whoop (For The Fitness Enthusiast)
These are a few I came across in my research but there are plenty more with a quick google search.
Heart-Brain Coherence is a key component in everyday overall well-being. When your Autonomic Nervous System, made of up Sympathetic Nerves and Parasympathetic nerves are working together in harmony, a smooth sine-wave heart rhythm is sent to your brain allowing for your brain to open up more cognitive functions such as thinking clearly, better reasoning and judgment, and sharper focus.
This can be measured by Heart Rate Variability (HRV). HRV is the measurement used to scale the time interval between each heart beat. The higher the HRV, the better. This stat can be used to view your overall fitness and health, including if you have the common cold coming your way.
If you've been monitoring your HRV with your variables (Diet, Sleep, Fitness, Breath Work) all staying the same but the number drops, it could be an indicator of some sort of sickness on the horizon.
One way to control your HRV is with disciplined day-to-day breathing techniques and/or meditation which helps calm the mind, body and breath with positive influences. When done correctly, you will see enormous changes in your mood, energy, focus and ability to learn.
So the next time something unexpected happens or you're in a high pressure situation you'll be as calm as Tom Brady throwing a touchdown in the Superbowl, or as cool as Michael Jordan nailing the buzzer beater, or as smooth as Simone Biles sticking the landing for gold!
Tell me your thoughts! Are you all in on Heart-Brain Coherence?
If you like this article give it a clap! You can find more articles at my website WendyLouise.Net and remember to always "Think Lovely Wonderful Thoughts!" -Peter Pan