The Northern Virginia
Support Group

Q&A - HeartMath

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Elly's Notes from NoVA CFS/FMS Support Group Meetings and Emails

"A change of heart, changes everything."

Q. What is HeartMath? Why do you talk about it?

HeartMath has been a subject at three of our meetings in February, American Heart Month. HeartMath is an Institute, a set of techniques, products, and much more that offers a measurable way of seeing the effects of emotions on the body scientifically. HeartMath uses modern technology to measure heart rate variability (HRV). Positive emotions are associated with less variability. Cultivating the positive emotions, especially gratitude, helps save energy so one doesn''t spend so many internal resources (vitamins, minerals, enzymes, ATP, etc.) on regulating autonomic nervous functions. To learn more about this in a support group setting, check out Elly's Gratitude Group (EGG) support group teleconferences.

HearthMath has done clinical trials with their testing on CFS patients (Note: ANSAR medical testing of the autonomic nervous system also uses HRV.)

CFS/FM/OI patients are known for  super stress sensitivity. At meetings, we talk about things that can help us cope such as chelated calcium and magnesium supplements, medications, meditations and mantras, avoiding stressors, and a some Heartmath techniques. The idea is to 

- Become more aware of when you are stressed
- Discover your personal stress triggers
- Reduce the severity of your reactions,
leaving you more energy to deal with illness and life
- Move your mind, emotions and body toward balance

According to the American Institute of Stress, 90% of all health problems are related to stress. Excessive stress wears down the immune system, increasing the risk of many health problems. Chronic stress can contribute to sleep disorders. You cannot eliminate stress from your life, but you can practice ways of reducing its effects and possibly even reversing any ill effects.

The concepts that HeartMath works with are inspiring to me. My geeky physicist side likes the hi-tech side, and the spiritual seeker in me likes the possibilities and hope for restoring mind- body balance. There are many of ways to learn more - books, office visits with a trainer, audio tapes, home software, and HeartMath's website ( One product is the computer program formerly known as the Freeze Framer, now called the emWave PC Stress Relief System. (Available for Mac's in 2009)

It comes with a finger pulse cuff to monitor your HRV as you think about various things. It plots the level of the coherence of your heart and thoughts. In one mode, you are shown a black and white picture. The more you are able to focus your thoughts on positive emotions (love, appreciation and gratitude) and feel them, the less variation in heart rate and the picture starts to change into color! The feedback helps you become aware of your autonomic nervous systems reactions to your perceptions and make changes. Very cool, but I found the gadgetry not as important as  knowing and practicing the concepts. Writing a list of 5 things I am grateful for each day in a gratitude journal gave me the excellent practice.

Saying that gratitude or mind involvement in disease is not meant in any way to diminish the severity or complexity of physical symptoms, disease, viruses, etc. with which people are contending. It is because one is very physically ill that it is important to use every tool in the medicine bag. Inviting emotions, a spiritual life, and a new kind of thought focus into our healing process gives more opportunity and sometimes even more energy to find physical relief and experience some happiness while still symptomatic and searching for more help. 

HeartMath asks us if we are really sincere with ourselves. Most patients who call me are not as sincere as they want to believe they are. I hear, "I'll do anything to get better." Then the next 5 sentences are things they won't do, won't give up even temporarily, etc. That's okay, it's human nature. To be sincere, you don't have to try everything or even anything, just change how you speak. Perhaps say, 'I want to get better, but on my terms - I'm not giving up X, Y, and Z and I won't try such and such 'til I feel ready. If that means my recovery will take longer than I accept it as my choice.' Then your mind and heart can relax because there is no more inconsistency.  

HeartMath has so much information on their website about the science of stress and the autonomic nervous system, about the brain and heart interactions, about how focusing on the heart and getting the heart and mind to be in coherence heals, and more! Check them out... for some of the items, you'll need to register with a user ID and password, but it is free.

If you sign up for a password, you get a free copy of the e-book
The Inside Story, Understanding the Power of Feeling.
Password probably needed for these:

We had handouts for the Heart-Lock-In technique and Attitude Breathing at meetings:
You can download them and other longer ones from

Self Care: 

Free heart quotes:

One Minute Stress Management by Doc Childre
Our best known technique shows how to manage thoughts and emotions in the moment by applying five simple steps. Research studies show improvement in nervous system balance, the health of the heart and immune system health. Used by organizations to enhance performance, creativity and resilience. Recommended by doctors and health care practitioners

HeartMath - Take Out The Significance—A Key to Peace and Satisfaction
Tool: Notice and Ease -- For Emotional Renewal
Tool: The Power of Neutral—To refocus your emotions

Connecting A Million Hearts  - Photo and Music For Earth Day

Applied Appreciation - Free E-book

Institute of HeartMath Research

Assessment of Autonomic Function and Balance in Chronic Fatigue Patients Using 24-Hour Heart Rate Variability Analysis
R. McCraty, S. Lanson, M. Atkinson
Clinical Autonomic Research 1997;7(5):237. 

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a medically unexplained disorder characterized by chronic, disabling fatigue, muscle pain, impaired concentration and a variety of neurobiological symptoms that make everyday activities extremely difficult. While it has been suggested that patients with CFS may have impaired autonomic nervous system function, there have been few studies that have examined this question directly. The purpose of this study was to determine if there were differences in autonomic function, as assessed by 24-hour heart rate variability (HRV) analysis, in 22 CFS patients (age range 31-69, mean age 45.5) as compared to healthy age and sex-matched controls. Holter monitoring was performed on all subjects, and HRV data was subjected to time domain, frequency domain and circadian rhythm analysis. In CFS patients, the SDNN index (mostly sympathetic) and RMS-SD (parasympathetic) measures were significantly lower than in controls. In the frequency domain, 5-minute total power, very low frequency (VLF) (mostly sympathetic), low frequency (LF) and high frequency (HF) (parasympathetic) power were all significantly lower in CFS patients. Circadian rhythm analysis revealed that differences in time and frequency domain measures were significant primarily during the daytime hours; 5-minute total power, LF power and HF power were also significantly lower in CFS patients during the latter part of the sleep cycle. There were no significant differences in mean heart rate or in the LF/HF ratio. Our results indicate that autonomic function is indeed impaired in CFS patients, as both sympathetic and parasympathetic activity are significantly depressed with respect to healthy age and sex-matched controls.

A More Effective Approach to Stress

Many stress-reduction approaches, such as exercise and fitness programs, time management techniques and nutritional education programs, have been implemented over the past ten to fifteen years to help people cope with increased stress in the workplace. Although there have been some benefits realized from these programs, most have not resulted in the desired outcomes, and the level of stress experienced by workers has continued to rise. ...

While situations, encounters or events may seem in-trinsically "stressful," it is truly how an individual perceives and reacts to an event that determines whether or not the stress response is activated. The main limitation of most stress-reduction approaches now in use is that while helpful, they do not target the real source of people's stress, enabling them to transform their perceptions and reactions to potentially “stressful” situations in the moment they occur.

HeartMath techniques can be used to transform the physical, mental and emotional effects of stress in the moment in which they occur. The drain and toxicity is reversed and optimal conditions for high preformance are established. 

“The main limitation of most stress-reduction approaches... is that they do not provide a means to reduce or avoid stress in the moment, as it occurs. ”
—Doc Childre, HeartMath Founder

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Updated November 18, 2009