Podcast episode 9: with Gavin Andrews, using HeartMath for stress and resilienceJul 30, 2021
Welcome to this ninth episode of the Make Your Difference podcast! In this series, I am interviewing founders and leaders of different sized wellness and education businesses as well as specialist marketers who support them to help them make their difference.
Gavin Andrews runs HeartMath UK and Ireland. He's used HeartMath to improve his own wellbeing and so is extremely passionate about its benefits - including helping us to deal with stress and build resilience, which is important for us all.
As the Managing Director of HeartMath in the UK and Ireland, Gavin is involved in training people in HeartMath. HeartMath is a system of self-regulation techniques which, to quote HeartMath "will help you to transform your stress into resilience, to achieve higher levels of performance and to live your life with more heart, health and happiness." HeartMath UK and Ireland trains individuals, who then go on to support others with their wellbeing, and also trains organisations.
What is HeartMath?
HeartMath is a system of tools and techniques for helping you manage the stresses in life. It is a way of using the breath to self-regulate your emotions, your thoughts, your feelings, and your behaviours. HeartMath uses biofeedback technology to help you measure heart rhythms and heart rate variability, which shows when you are in a state known as coherence. Gavin says this technology is "a bit like a FitBit for your emotions".
What are some of the benefits of HeartMath?
HeartMath is useful in a number of ways:
- Helping you to manage stress - when you can't control anything else, you can choose to slow, deepen and regulate your breathing
- Gets your body into balance - it gets you into a state called Coherence, enabling you to perform optimally and getting your systems in your body to perform optimally too
- Helping you to think clearly - That has profound effects on your physiology and helps you to think more clearly, which puts your back in a state where you can deal with what you need to deal with
- Being simple and easy to use - the techniques are really simple and life is complicated enough
- Supporting your wellbeing - you can choose to experience pleasant and positive emotions, and get your body back into balance, and so to repair and renew itself
- Helping you reduce worry - it helps to reduce the frequency, intensity and duration of our feelings of anxiety, and our worries
- Giving you a choice of response - you choose how you might respond to those things that you don't have any control over - HeartMath helps you to get a much broader perspective on life, so that you can see that there are different options available.
What is the background to HeartMath?
The founders of HeartMath still run the business in the States. They've been together for over 40 years now working on personal development.
They have done a lot of research over the years into the state of coherence and the HeartMath tools and into the impact of emotions on heart, brain physiology, and performance. The research provides credibility, and it provides evidence and proof.
The book "Transforming Stress" by Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman provides a good introduction.
Why accessing biofeedback can help
A lot of people give up, or they don't do meditation or mindfulness or other practices with regularity. One of the reasons is that they're not noticing the benefit of it, aren't sure if they're doing it right and are not sure of what they should be noticing. A lot of people don't have what we call interoception - or an awareness of what's going on in their bodies.
Biofeedback technology will tell you what's happening in your body, so you don't need to know yourself that you're in a state of coherence, as it will let you know.
This knowledge can then support your practice, as you can use the bio-feedback to gain awareness, make different changes to your breath and see the impact, and see the impact of feeling different feelings and emotions, or see the impact of listening to different music or looking at different images.
You can then choose to implement the different practices as and when you need to.
What's the difference between HeartMath and mindfulness?
HeartMath coherence practice puts you in a different state to that which most forms of mindfulness and meditation put you into. Most of the time, mindfulness and meditation put you into a state of relaxation, so there is more parasympathetic activity going on - that's the rest, digest, renew type of activity.
Coherence is unusual, as it actually contains inputs that are both sympathetic and parasympathetic. So, to simplify, it's kind of like a state of balance between the two. It's very much a state of calm alertness - a doing state.
Whilst we might disengage from the stress, we do that to then re-engage with the situation. So we can use the state of coherence intentionally to solve a problem or to take action. It enables you to engage with things and to do things. It's not about disassociating, which some types of meditation and mindfulness can be. It's about engaging.
What about using HeartMath without a monitor?:
Gavin has been involved in creating Syntropy States (syntropystates.com) He wanted to create a way for people to access coherence without having a monitor, as a way into HeartMath.
The importance of customer experience:
Gavin told us about how delivering an excellent experience to people trained in HeartMath is one of the keys to growing his business. This then generates referrals for him with other coaches, medical professionals and others with an interest in wellbeing. Having a clear vision and a mission-based business enables him to connect to others in a meaningful way so that they want to share HeartMath with others.
Other aspects that help him are the number of people who talk about HeartMath, especially in the States. He also benefits from having an excellent product (created by HeartMath in the States)
Gavin shared his thoughts on the important area of employee wellbeing. He also shared a practical exercise called "Quick Coherence" with us at the end of the podcast, as his final take-away. If you're interested in experiencing HeartMath first-hand, then take a listen!
How can you reduce your stress further and build your resilience?
Episode 10, coming soon!
The Make Your Difference podcast is hosted by Vicky Mason. To find out more about her work with organisations:
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