The HeartMath Institute in the United States has developed a number of techniques over the years to train heart coherence and heart rate variability (HRV). With these easy-to-apply HeartMath exercises, you can prepare your mental capacity, emotional stability and resilience, and heart coherence in a very accessible way.
HeartMath exercises for heart coherence
The HeartMath exercises below have all been extensively tested and scientifically substantiated by the researchers of the HeartMath Institute. Many of these scientific publications can be found on Pubmed, the scientific database. With the exercises described below, you are able to restore peace in your body and mind in a very short time at stressful moments, make yourself more resistant to stress, and face life with more happiness.
HeartMath exercises and the heart-brain
The heart works as a transmitter and is the most powerful generator of electromagnetic energy in the human body. It produces the most extensive rhythmic electromagnetic field of all the organs of the body, even more than the brain does. The heart’s electrical field is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the electrical activity generated by the brain. This shows the importance of maintaining good contact with our hearts and ensuring that it serves us in the form of positive emotions.
All HeartMath exercises and techniques can be performed quickly and efficiently and can also be measured with proper HeartMath equipment. After a stressful meeting at work, find a quiet place and do the Quick Coherence technique to restore peace in your body and mind. By consciously evoking and experiencing positive emotions a number of times during the day, you can train heart coherence and HVR to improve stress resilience.
Quick Coherence technique
The simplest of the HeartMath exercises is the Quick Coherence technique, which helps to get into a coherent state, in which the heart and brain work together smoothly, a so-called state of heart-brain coherence. In this state, you are able to take full advantage of your heart intelligence. The Quick Coherence exercise helps you to:
- reduce stress in real-time
- be able to move on positively, calmly, focused, and energetically
- perform better
- be able to make creative, intuitive, and better decisions
The Quick Coherence technique is particularly suitable for “coming back to yourself” quickly and easily after an impactful meeting, a heated discussion, or simply a Snickers moment “when you are not yourself”. The technique consists of two simple steps:
Heart-focused breathing: Focus your attention on the region around your heart. Visualize your breath flowing in and out of your chest. Breathe a little deeper and slower than usual.
Invoke a positive emotion: Make a sincere effort to experience a positive emotion, such as gratitude or love for something or someone in your life. This can be a pet or a dear person.
You can apply this exercise whenever you think you need it. The exercise only needs to take 1 to 2 minutes.
HeartMath® Appreciation Tool ™ and exercise
An effective way to improve mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being is to evoke and sustain genuine appreciation. The greater your capacity for sincere appreciation, the deeper the connection with your heart, where intuition and unlimited inspiration and possibilities reside. Try HeartMath’s Appreciation Tool and exercises.
Heart-focused, heartfelt, positive feelings strengthen the immune system, while negative emotions can suppress the immune response for up to six hours. A heart monitor reading from someone happy contrasts with the heart rhythm pattern of someone experiencing frustration.
A coherent heart rhythm, measured by heart rate variability (HRV), is what scientists call a highly ordered or coherent pattern and is a sign of good health and emotional balance.
The exercise works as follows:
- Focus your attention on the region around your heart. Breathe a little deeper and slower than usual. The inhalation lasts 5-6 seconds. The exhalation also lasts 5-6 seconds. Visualize how you breathe in and out through your heart.
- Activate a positive feeling as you continue to breathe in and out through your heart region. Imagine a situation where you felt very happy or good about yourself. You can also evoke the feeling of a loved person or pet by thinking about this. The point is that you think about something that gives you an excellent feeling.
- Try to keep this feeling for a couple of minutes. If your mind drifts away, it doesn’t matter. Refocus on your positive emotions to get back into a state of heart coherence.
Heart Lock-in technique
The Heart Lock-In® technique – one of the first HeartMath exercises – has proven its effectiveness in individuals and groups for years to achieve and maintain heart coherence. In addition, the Heart Lock-In, introduced in 1992, has been shown to not only affect the individual who applies the technique but also to increase the synchronization of heart rhythms between participants in a group setting.
- Focus on the area of the heart and imagine your breath flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, a little slower and deeper than usual.
- Activate and support a regenerative feeling such as love, appreciation, caring, or compassion.
- Visualize how you radiate that renewing feeling to yourself and others.
Heart Focussed Breathing
Heart-focused breathing is recommended in the various HeartMath exercises, but what exactly is it? You can’t breathe with your heart, can you? That’s right because you breathe through your lungs. With Heart Focussed Breathing, however, you focus your attention on the heart region of your chest. You visualize that your heart is breathing, and you breathe a bit deeper than usual. Especially if you still have to get used to this when you are just starting with the HeartMath techniques, it can be helpful to place a hand on your heart.
HeartMath typically recommends inhaling for about 5 to 6 seconds and exhaling for 5 to 6 seconds. But don’t force it. Just make sure your breathing feels smooth, relaxed, and comfortable.
Heart Focussed breathing doesn’t take much time during the day, as you need a regular reminder to apply it. Still, it can significantly benefit your mood during the day. Many people find that heart-focused breathing is an excellent way to start and end the day, but of course, there are countless moments in between when you can breathe consciously and experience the benefits of this exercise. Try it during your lunch break or behind your desk when you have a moment.
There is no more critical time for a few minutes of Heart Focussed Breathing when you are experiencing stress. The times when you need stress relief differ from person to person, as does the sensitivity to stress and the resilience to deal with it. Only you know best when you have to take a moment for yourself, and as you become more familiar with the HeartMath techniques, you will often unconsciously use them to stay calm and focused.
Attitude Breathing™ Technique
Most people are stuck in old patterns and attitudes based on their past experiences. Some of them deal with it. Others struggle on a daily basis to get rid of those limiting habits. These attitudes may include being judgmental, impatience, edginess with others, and self-critical.
The Attitude Breathing™ Technique can help you to replace undesired behavior and attitudes with more positive ones that prevent you from stress accumulation. With this exercise, you invest in your overall happiness.
Step 1. Recognize the feeling or attitude you want to change and identify a replacement attitude.
Suggestion: If your habit is being over-reactive and frustrated with people, the replacement might be increased patience and kindness.
Step 2. Focus your attention on the area of the heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and more profound than usual. Find an easy rhythm that’s relaxing for you.
Step 3. As you continue heart-focused breathing, practice increasing the feeling of your new replacement attitude.
Suggestion: If you can’t find a replacement attitude, breathe a sense of calm or neutral through your heart area for a while. This often magnetizes emotions that lift our attitudes and perceptions.
Step 4. Practice maintaining your new feelings and perceptions as you
move through your day-to-day interactions. Use Attitude Breathing as often as needed to integrate your unique feelings, so they become your new attitude. Also, when you are feeling uplifting feelings such as gratitude, kindness, or compassion, use attitude breathing
to instate these feelings so they will return more often.
With a bit of practice, you will surprise yourself with your increased inspiration and heart power to change many unwanted feelings, emotions, and mindsets that reduce your energy, resilience, and your ability to feel good.
HeartMath offers a variety of tools and technologies that have been scientifically designed to complement heart-directed breathing and other HeartMath techniques. With these mostly portable devices, you can measure your stress resistance in real-time, and you can work on increasing your energy, coherence, and resilience.