It seems everyone I meet is looking for that edge in life to feel, do, and look better. From supplements and diets to treatments and clothes to the never-ending consumption over books, podcasts, and the latest trends.
When trying all of these different things, how do we know what’s working and what isn’t?
As the saying goes ‘ If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’.
So while we’re taking our supplements, experimenting with new diets and thinking differently, how do we truly know what’s helping us and what’s not?
Fortunately, every second of the day our body is telling us about our state of health. With every heartbeat our body transmits a signal informing the current state of our nervous system. This signal reveals whether the body is under a state of stress, in need of recovery, in balance and much much more.
You can measure this by tracking your Heart Rate Variability.
What is Heart Rate Variability?
Heart Rate Variability (or HRV) is the variation in time between heartbeats – which is always fluctuating – it actually shouldn’t be the same beat to beat.
HRV is an accurate, non-invasive measure of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) – which response to everything: how you exercise, recover, eat, sleep and perceive stress.
More Variation is Better!
Research is showing that when your HRV is high(greater variation between heartbeats), your body is showing better stress resilience and health. A low HRV (little variation between beats) actually indicates less resilience and greater stress.
It makes sense because your body is always in a state of physiological and emotional change. So a healthy heart rate will vary as your body and mind vary. Your heart rate responds to emotions and external stressors.
Why Track Your HRV
HRV tells us about the state of your autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is the master controller over your entire body and mind. It consists of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.
Tracking your HRV will let you know if you are in a parasympathetic or sympathetic state.
You want to know this because if you are in a sympathetic state, your immune, hormonal, and digestive systems are impaired leading to whatever symptoms you are dealing with. That’s the root.
Most of my client’s issues (hormone, mental, digestive, skin) are happening because they are in a chronic sympathetic state.
When I address this first and get them to intentionally generate a parasympathetic state each day, everything changes.
So, when measuring your HRV and you do see you are in a sympathetic state (most people are and don’t even know it), you will know you need to do something to get out of it.
By regularly tracking your HRV, you can also:
- Decide what exercise to perform that day, or if you need a day off
- Get real-time feedback on what improves or diminishes your HRV
- Be alert to excess stress, including overtraining
- Determine what is putting your body into a stressful state
How fascinating is that?
If you take your HRV every morning, you can plan your day depending on the results! You may need to not work out, generate more positive emotion, or resolve any life issues that are putting you into a sympathetic state!
Your Personal Feedback Coach
Start taking new supplements? Sleeping more? Eating less? You can see how each of these things is impacting your heart rate variability (i.e is it actually benefitting your body). Sometimes your diet, way of thinking, or exercise could actually be stressing the body instead of helping it.
On the flip side, you will also be able to see that staying up late binge-watching Netflix or that third cocktail you had may not have been the best choice;)
What Effects Your HRV
The biggest impact on your HRV and therefore your health? Your mind.
No surprise there if you have known me or my work for any period of time.
Ya’all. Your mind is either putting your body into a state of healing or imbalance. Your reactions to what happens to you each day is the signal to turn on or off your body’s natural healing systems.
This is why I love tracking your HRV, you will learn how it feels when your body is in a toxic state, and you will learn what to do to get out of it.
Other physical and environmental factors like toxic food, chemicals, over or under exercising, drugs, and disrupted sleep also lower your HRV.
How to Increase Your HRV
The fastest way to increase your HRV? Any guess?
Yep, your mind. And emotions.
What you are thinking and the emotions you are feeling has the greatest impact on your body. Healing or not. Hormonal balance, or not. Mental health, or not.
The Heartmath Institute is an organization dedicated to proving the effect emotions have over controlling healing and functions of the body.
They created techniques that allow you to increase your HRV and coherence. Coherence is the state your body goes in when your brain and heart get in synch, therefore, all body systems get in synch. In that state, creativity, healing, and pure possibility begin to emerge.
How to Measure Your HRV
Tracking HRV is extremely helpful, but not easy to accurately do.
I have found that the most accurate and easy way of doing it is using the Oura Ring.
The Oura Ring works so well because:
- It tracks HRV each night while you sleep, giving you results each morning. This allows for you to get an accurate baseline and then longterm data that you can see changes in. Consistency matters because it’s the overall patterns you are looking at and each person is unique.
- A finger is one of the most optimal places for PPG-based HRV tracking because it has the suitable arteries and capillaries for clear blood volume pulse signals, making the optical measurement more reliable and accurate.
- It also tracks so many other factors that can tell you what is happening in your body. It gives a sleep, activity, and readiness score everyday!
*More on this amazing little device later because it goes way beyond HRV (and way it’s better/healthier than an apple watch) but if you want to get started tracking your HRV today, Oura Ring will do it – learn more about it here!