Our heart is the engine in our body. It pumps the blood around, distributes nutrients and fuels to the cells, and is tireless till death. With an average of 15,200 beats per day, nothing seems as regular as our heartbeat. Yet, some factors can seriously disrupt our heart rate: stress, negative emotions, and intense movement ensure that our heart rhythm patterns can vary considerably.
Although our heart rhythm patterns always appear very regular on a cardiogram, almost all of them vary from moment to moment. This is heart rate variability (HRV). The HRV is the time between one heartbeat, and another varies continuously, may it only be for a matter of milliseconds.
Many factors influence this HRV, including our breathing pattern, exercise, and even our thoughts. Imagine how the thought of an exam can disturb your entire night’s sleep.
Influence of emotions on heart rhythm patterns
Research from the HeartMath Institute in America has shown that our feelings and emotions are the most powerful factors influencing our heart rhythm. In general, stressful emotions, such as fear, anger, and frustration, have a major impact on our heart rate. When displayed on a cardiogram, it will show an erratic, irregular pattern.
It also applies the other way around: when we experience warmth, affection, and gratitude, the graph shows a nice regular and smooth pattern.
All these properties of our heart rhythm patterns are measured and displayed accurately and in real-time with the emWave and Inner Balance technologies developed by HeartMath. With these technologies, you can train your emotions, thereby positively influencing heart rate variability (HRV), ultimately allowing you to achieve an almost continuous state of heart coherence.
Stress and negative emotions
Stress and frustration are inherent in our Western lifestyle. Our employer has expectations for your performance at work, the children have to go to the hockey rink, and we constantly walk around with a rushed feeling. On top of that, the road drivers hinder us in our rush, and the frustration rises to 100%. Even the night’s sleep that you need so badly does not last longer than five consecutive hours.
In short, we are so tense that we hardly have any resilience, and the question is not if but when we will have a breakdown. For our physiology, this means that the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are not balanced and do not work very well together. You can imagine it as driving a car: with one foot on the accelerator (the sympathetic nervous system) and the other on the brakes (the parasympathetic nervous system) at the same time, you use a lot of fuel (energy), while you hardly move forward. Just as this is not good for your car, it is also particularly bad for your body. Under the influence of stress and negative emotions, our heart produces irregular and erratic-looking heart rhythm patterns.
Positive emotions and our heart rhythm patterns
Positive emotions, on the other hand, send a completely different signal through our bodies. When we experience positive emotions such as appreciation, joy, care, and love, we see that the heart rhythm pattern responds immediately: it looks very ordered, like a smooth, harmonious wave. This is called a coherent heart rhythm pattern.
In a coherent heart rhythm, the sympathetic (accelerator) and parasympathetic (brake) nervous systems are synchronized and work together in harmony. This harmonious cooperation not only ensures peace in our nervous system but also improves other body processes. We have a clearer mind, a better concentration, and it benefits our relationships.
This improvement in body processes is a fact that is often overlooked because it’s not tangible. When we are in a state of heart coherence, we radiate it. We can measure this radiation with super-sensitive magnetometers. Our heart emits electromagnetic radiation that is 60 times stronger in amplitude than that of our brains.
With this in mind, it’s not surprising that we sense whether someone is feeling good or not or whether a situation feels uncomfortable. We feel the energy that surrounds someone as a kind of aura.
Heart coherence: a state of optimal functioning
The research of the HeartMath Institute shows that generating positive emotions produces a measurable result. In other words: happiness is measurable! When we are in a state of harmony, we are happy. The state of heart coherence synchronizes our psychological (mental and emotional) as well as physiological (physical) processes. Simply put, our bodies and brains work better, we feel better, and we perform better.
Physiologically, a state of heart coherence is characterized by a smooth, sinusoidal pattern in heart rate variability. This characteristic pattern is called heart rate coherence and is the primary indicator.
With the emWave and Inner Balance technologies, cardiac coherence can be measured and quantified. In a coherent state, a number of physiological changes occur, among other things:
• The two branches of the autonomic nervous system synchronize with each other.
• Different body systems synchronize with the rhythm generated by the heart.
• Increased synchronization between heart and brain activity.