In today’s fast-paced society, finding some time to slow down and give your mind a break is essential. Meditation is a powerful tool that has become a widespread trend because it gives our minds the rest it needs. Not only that, but meditation practice can improve HRV. Today we’re going to discuss the effect of meditation on HRV.
While struggles with attention span, anxiety, and depression highlight the importance of meditation, it also shows why it’s so difficult for some people to trust in the process and commit to meditation.
One of the main reasons people struggle with meditation early on is because they don’t see immediate results when getting started – not to mention the difficulty in staying silent and keeping the mind focused for more than a few minutes!
HRV biofeedback devices can help to give new practitioners some insight into the more profound effects of meditation on heart rate variability and the body. This insight is beneficial when it seems like not much is happening on the surface.
What is Meditation?
Many people believe that meditating requires clearing your mind of all thoughts. However, it’s more about becoming aware of your thoughts.
While this may sound a little abstract, this concept is the heart of what meditation can help you achieve. Think about it like this – do you feel like you’re in control of your thoughts? When was the last time you took a step back and got out of your head?
Meditation lets you become more aware and more purposeful about your actions. It teaches you how to zoom out from your choices and mindfully respond, rather than react, to situations in your life. Meditating can help improve well-being, feeling stable, and the body’s ability to tolerate stress.
Meditation sounds simple – but it takes discipline to remain still in body and mind. By acknowledging and becoming more aware of your thoughts, you can experience a deep state of rest, peace, and clarity that the busy pace of life robs you of daily.
In his essay “The Key To The Middle Way,” the Dalai Lama states that it should take the average person about a year to become a beginner at meditation when practiced at least five times a week.
While you don’t need to become a meditation master to experience the benefits of meditation, it’s essential to understand that meditation is a commitment! Make time in your everyday routine to practice to reap the most benefits.
Studies show that meditation does provide some benefits in the short term for reducing anxiety and managing daily stressors – but the real power of meditation comes from committing to it long-term. Doing so can improve the brain’s ability to heal itself, learn new information, and be creative.
Committing to a regular practice can be very difficult for some people because the benefits of meditation are not immediately visible. Many of the benefits your body experiences happen on a much deeper level underneath the surface.
But what if you had a tool that could help you get a deeper insight into the effects of meditation on your health? Biofeedback wearables that track heart rate variability can be a big help for newcomers to this practice.
HRV and Meditation
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) refers to the varying intervals of time in between each heartbeat. This variability tells us how well the body’s stress response system performs.
If your heart rate variability data is improving, it’s because your body is getting better at managing stress, handling pressure, and its ability to relax.
One of the most powerful insights we can get from HRV readings regarding meditation is its ability to detect differences in mental states. For example, HRV activity differs when a person is in a good, bad, or stressed mood.
One study tested the HRV levels of emotional states to look for correlations between different states of mind and HRV levels. The study demonstrated that having positive or negative feelings results in different HRV responses. This study is helpful because it tells us that HRV is also a reliable method to measure how stress, anger, happiness, and other emotions affect your overall health.
In other words, your heart rate variability and your mind’s health are inextricably linked!
Chronic stress and compulsive overthinking cause people to experience anxiety regularly. Anxiety can cause enormous strain on your heart and your other internal organs.
Constant stress or overthinking overworks your body’s natural stress response system, causing damaging inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation causes problematic side effects, such as low energy, poor sleep, lack of motivation, increased hunger cravings, and an overall lethargic effect.
This overstimulated stress response throws off your heart’s normal rhythm and causes your HRV to become less adaptable. In other words, it causes your stress response system to be in a constant fight-or-flight state, which causes your mental and physical balance to become severely distressed.
Thankfully, your brain is a very malleable organ. As you practice meditation, your brain develops new neural pathways that aid in learning, cognition, memory, and your body’s ability to stay balanced.
During meditation, you’re directly activating your body’s parasympathetic nervous system – the system responsible for calming the body down after the fight-or-flight mode is activated. Meditation is a form of what is called active rest. Think of active rest as weight lifting for your brain.
This active rest cultivates a deeper connection between your mind and body, resulting in a higher HRV adaptability.
With this in mind, we can see that there’s truth to cultivating a deeper mind/body connection through meditation. Let’s look now at some powerful meditation practices that you can use to deepen this mind/body connection and improve your HRV with meditation.
Ways to Improve HRV and Your Health With Meditation and Mindfulness
While there are many types of meditation, the most basic form of inward attention meditation is mindfulness meditation. The core of mindfulness meditation, as we mentioned briefly, is to take a step back from your thoughts and be still. To get the most out of your daily mindfulness practice, try to have a comfortable, quiet spot to sit and be still.
Start by closing your eyes, quieting your thoughts, and taking slow breaths. Feel each breath and focus on the whole sensation, from the inhale through the exhale. Slow breathing allows you to build a powerful mind/body connection at a fundamental level.
If thoughts begin to arise or you get distracted – that’s ok! Just focus on the breath and let those thoughts fade. Remember, the breath can and will always be the best anchor to the present moment.
As you practice mindfulness training, you’ll develop a more remarkable ability to stay focused. You’ll develop a deeper concentration during meditation and on your breath. The key to this breathing meditation is patience and a deep trust in the process because it won’t be easy at first!
Over time, however, you’ll notice that you’ll fall deeper and deeper into a meditative state and find it easier not to get distracted. Also, pay attention to how you feel after you meditate – we guarantee you’ll notice a lighter, more peaceful feeling than before you started.
While yoga is widespread, it’s a practice that’s often confused as more of a physical exercise. However, yoga is a mind and body practice that involves meditation, breathwork, and movement to improve mental and physical health.
As you go through yoga poses, focus on the connection between your breathing and the pose. Focusing on this connection will help you strengthen and tone your muscular and mental flexibility.
Loving-kindness meditation is a form of meditation that ties into the connection between your mental state and your mood. While doing your meditation practice, begin to send out good wishes and intentions of happiness and well-being for your fellow humans.
Spirituality doesn’t need to come into play – you only need to wish others well, think about those you care about (and if you’re serious, those you may have troubles with), and hope for their happiness and freedom from suffering.
We mentioned above the study that linked a positive mood to a higher HRV adaptability. Having a positive mindset and feelings of kindness, happiness, and love will affect the health of your body. A higher HRV adaptability signifies a more balanced and effective stress response system. Studies also demonstrate the link between love and a positive mood with improved life expectancy, heart health, decreased risk for chronic diseases, and more.
Meditation is a Practice – Not a Magic Pill
While mindfulness meditation can cause some significant benefits to your brain, health, and mood, these changes don’t happen overnight. If you want to improve your health with meditation, it’s essential to take your meditation with you throughout the day. Don’t just leave that state of peace and kindness behind you when you leave your practice!
So, continue to cultivate a healthy balance of stress and rest in your life, stay positive when times seem tough, be grateful, and focus on developing good-quality relationships.
By using a biofeedback wearable, like Hanu, to track your progress, you’ll be able to visualize the more profound benefits that are taking place within your body that may not be immediately noticeable as you develop your practice of meditation.
Learning to let go of your expectations and experience meditation is difficult — but it’s also essentially the point. The more you practice being in the moment without judgment or expectations, the better you get at it! So stay patient, stay kind, and stay healthy!