It Starts with the Heart: Could Your Heart Hold the Key to Better Mental Health?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which offers us a unique opportunity to consider not only what goes on in our minds but also the profound connection between the heart and our mental health, especially during these challenging times. 

Many people aren’t aware of how their heart rhythm affects their brain and mental health. However, research at the HeartMath Institute has uncovered the powerful role heart rate variability (HRV) plays in our overall well-being and mental health. The good news is there are ways to bring your HRV into a smooth and coherent state, improving your emotional balance and mental clarity.

Understanding Heart Rate Variability

Heart rate variability (HRV) measures the interval between heartbeats. It’s essentially your heart rhythm. Measuring HRV opens a window into our mental and emotional state as well as our autonomic nervous system, which controls 90% of our body’s involuntary functions, such as digestion, sleep, and hormonal and immune responses. 

Research at the HeartMath Institute shows that when we’re worried, anxious, stressed, or depressed, the heart’s rhythm becomes erratic and disordered. The more stressed you are, the more irregular and chaotic your heart rhythm pattern looks. 

However, HeartMath Institute research also shows that positive feelings like kindness, gratitude, appreciation, compassion, love, and joy help create order and coherence in the heart’s rhythm. And you can learn simple techniques to help shift your heart rhythm into a more coherent pattern that enhances positive feelings and promotes a calmer, more emotionally balanced, and clearer state of mind.

Tips to Enhance Heart Coherence and Improve Mental Health

To help support you during Mental Health Awareness Month, here are two effective tips and techniques you might like to try to bring your heart rhythm into a more coherent state, improving your emotional well-being and mental clarity.

  1. Unplug from the digital world. When you feel anxious about personal concerns or global events, taking a break from the influx of news and social media posts can be beneficial. Use this time to engage in nurturing and relaxing activities, such as being in nature, listening to soothing music, or connecting with loved ones. Also, try practicing a heart-focused breathing technique (provided below) to bring your heart rhythm into greater coherence. 
  1. Use the Quick Coherence Technique for better sleep. If you have a hard time falling asleep or struggle to fall asleep again once you wake up during the night, take a few minutes and try resetting your heart rhythm with the Quick Coherence Technique (provided below) while lying in bed. Research shows that practicing heart rhythm coherence can help you fall asleep and wake up more rested and refreshed. 

By embracing these simple yet powerful heart-focused practices, we can not only take steps to reduce stress and enhance our mental and emotional health but also create a more balanced and fulfilling life. Remember, it starts with the heart. 

For more insights into heart rhythm coherence, watch this short video