Heart rate variability (HRV) is essential in monitoring mental and physical health. Physicians once focused on heart rate and rhythm as a vital health measurement, but now HRV, which measures the time between heartbeats, is becoming more essential. The higher your HRV, the more adaptable you are to various life situations. A high HRV is also oftentimes a sign of good mental and physical health.
With HRV and mental health closely related, you may wonder, can improving HRV boost mental health? Well, yes and no.
There are several methods you can use to improve HRV. It just so happens that many of these methods also improve mental health. Read on to find out more about the phenomena.
How Can You Improve HRV to Boost Mental Health?
Get Better Sleep
Consistent, quality sleep sustains your circadian rhythm boosting HRV. It also helps you spend more time in restorative REM and deep sleep. Aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day for optimal results.
In addition to boosting HRV, sleep also improves mental health by increasing focus and minimizing fatigue. It has been revealed that people with inadequate sleep are ten times more likely to experience symptoms of depression and 17 times more likely to have symptoms of anxiety. A study of nonfatal suicide attempts showed that sleep variability was a main predictor of suicidal ideation.
Research published in the journal of Psychophysiology found that breathing slowly and evenly for six minutes a day can boost your parasympathetic nervous system. This is a system responsible for relaxation in the body. Inhale for four seconds, rest for two seconds and exhale for four seconds to promote better HRV.
Breathing exercises have also been shown to lower anxiety. They fool your body into thinking it’s in a more relaxed state. The effects carry over to your mind promoting a general sense of calm.
Exercise, But Don’t Overdo It
Strength training and aerobic exercise are beneficial to HRV. However, rest and recovery are also critical. Overtraining can cause an imbalance that increases HRV over time. If you are dealing with fatigue or have difficulty completing your workouts, you may need to take more breaks.
In addition to aiding with HRV, the right amount of exercise also increases serotonin, minimizing feelings of anxiety and depression.
Cut Back on Alcohol
Drinking alcohol is okay, as long as it’s done in moderation. A study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology found that one glass of wine did not affect HRV. But two glasses of wine decreased it by 28% to 33%.
Many people drink alcohol to self-medicate depression and anxiety. But it can do more harm than good in the long run. It decreases HRV and throws off other important body functions, so you are not as resilient to stress.
Include Leafy Greens in Your Diet
Leafy greens offer a variety of health benefits. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people who ate leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and mustard greens, had healthier HRVs as compared to those who ate other types of healthy foods.
The veggies are also rich in folate and magnesium, which have been shown to reduce anxiety and boost mood.
Improve Your Work-Life Balance
Work is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to low HRV. A study published in Industrial Health showed that long commutes and working overtime lowers HRV scores.
Improving your work-life balance will improve your HRV. It will also give you more time to enjoy life which will boost your mental health.
Spend Time in Nature
Getting out into nature is known to improve stress levels. The Japanese have a special name for the practice. “Shinrin-yoku” or “forest bathing” has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce cortisol levels. It decreases mental stress and strengthens HRV.
Take Up Yoga
Yoga is known for being a source of stress relief. It can also be beneficial to HRV. A study published in the BMC Research journal found that practicing yoga for 60 minutes a week for eight weeks can significantly increase HRV.
Hanu Health Boosts Mental Health and HRV
If you are looking to improve your mental health and HRV, Hanu Health will help you reach your wellness goals. It measures biometrics like stress resiliency, heart rate, respiration rate, and HRV in response to real-time circumstances. It suggests personalized exercises that help you improve your stress response.
Improving HRV does not directly boost mental health. But many activities that benefit HRV have positive mental health side effects. These include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, engaging in stress-relieving activities, and using the Hanu Health platform. Discover how we can help you improve your quality of life.
If you ever feel like you just don’t want to go this alone, consider hiring one of our talented and licensed Hanu Therapists.