Everyone has had the experience of feeling their heart beat (an uncomfortable experience if you are feeling very anxious). Your heart rhythm refers to the amount of beats per unit of time – 70 beats per minute, for example. Your Heart Rate Variability (HRV), on the other hand, describes the amount of time between each of your heart beats. Science has proven that a higher HRV – that is, a greater amount of variation in the space between each heart beat, measured over time – is correlated with improved health outcomes. Biofeedback can be employed to help you improve your HRV – training you to consciously alter a process that is generally not under conscious control.
HRV Biofeedback entails the use of sensors placed on your fingertips or your ear that measure your heart rate (essentially the same type of device as the doctor places on your fingertip to check your pulse). While wearing the sensors, you will use a computer monitor to engage in what I like to think of as glorified video games. You control the action on the screen by consciously attuning to your breathing, which then influences your heart rate – and your HRV. When your HRV increases, you simply feel better. Successfully completing a biofeedback exercise has a rapid and radical effect on your sense of well being.
With the use of this technology, you will quickly learn how to adjust your physical and emotional state and manage feelings of anxiety, rumination, intrusive thoughts, and other experiences that negatively impact your well-being. With enough practice, the benefits of biofeedback will endure long past the point you’ve finished therapy.
While the use of biofeedback in mental health treatment is still gaining traction, early studies show benefits in helping people to identify, tolerate, and alleviate intrusive symptoms of emotional distress. Biofeedback has also successfully been used with athletes to improve performance, as well as with children who have been diagnosed with attentional difficulties. You can check out the latest research under the “Resources” tab of the site.