Practice in Clinical & Health Psychology
HRV Biofeedback Brochure

Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback for Stress Management
and Autonomic Nervous System Balance

Heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback addresses imbalances in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) by training individuals to self-regulate their ANS activity; reducing sympathetic arousal and encouraging parasympathetic relaxation and increasing afferent vagal tone.

HRV biofeedback monitors the time between heartbeats referred to as the "inter-beat interval" or IBI as measured in milliseconds. Although most people believe the heartbeat to be very regular-- like a metronome-- in reality the healthy heartbeat pattern is highly varied; with the IBI constantly changing as a function of the person's physical, emotional, and mental state. The healthy heart is highly flexible in the timing of one one beat to the next allowng it to adjust to the complex and constantly changing mind-body state.

Research has shown that individuals with various disorders reflecting autonomic nervous system (ANS) dysreglation also tend to show decreased HRV. Diminished HRV is frequently seen in persons with high blood pressure, chronic pain and stress, depression, and anxiety. HRV can be viewed as a sign of vulnerability to stress, whether from psychological or physical stressors or the effects of living with chronic illness or pain.

The basic premise of HRV training is that when an individual increasingly achieves coherence between the respiratory (breathing) and cardiac (heartbeat) cycles, it will lead to optimal autonomc nervous system balance which, in turn, yields increasing mental and physical comfort, a positive emotional oulook, enhanced health and well-being, and improved biometrics. Achieving more balance in the autonomic nervous system is important because many medical and psychiatric/psychological problems are related to an over-aroused or inflexible autonomic state.

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