Joyce Meyer once said, “I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.” But there is just one problem, how often do we really track our health and nutrition? Most of us would say that we struggle with this aspect of life. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) are enthusiastic about a current caring trend of wearing fitness monitors. Guess what, we love the instant feedback about our health! With this information we can adjust our lifestyles to be more conducive to longevity and vitality. One way that we can assess our health is through biofeedback, such as with heart rate variability that helps us build our resilience. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) want to share more information about monitoring our health with biofeedback. A simple analogy that the Institute of HeartMath proposes is: “As a marker of physiological resilience and behavioral flexibility, it reflects our ability to adapt effectively to stress and environmental demands… just as the shifting stance of a tennis player about to receive a serve may facilitate swift adaptation, in healthy individuals the heart remains similarly responsive and resilient, primed and ready to react when needed.”
As we delve deeper into healthier, happier and more caring lifestyles, we come across a term time and time again: biofeedback. What is “biofeedback?” Is it like an autobiography, a reflection on your life to this point? Close, but not quite right. “Biofeedback is a technique you can use to learn to control some of your body’s functions, such as your heart rate.” (Mayo Clinic) So, biofeedback is a different form of self-reflection to promote self-care. When we receive the results from various health monitors we can visually see how we are feeling and improving. This feedback helps you make subtle changes in your body. One way is to relax certain muscles to help reduce pain. “In essence, biofeedback gives you the ability to practice new ways to control your body, often to improve a health condition or physical performance.” (Mayo Clinic)
There are many different ways to receive biofeedback. All can be helpful depending on what your are monitoring. Maybe you are using interactive computer programs, mobile or wearable devices; all of these health monitors can give you an idea about your health. Check out the infographic built from information from the Mayo Clinic below to learn more about the types of biofeedback you can use to help keep track of your health.
When is the best time to begin monitoring your health? The answer is anytime! The sooner we begin to look at our biofeedback, the sooner we can make small, or big, changes that will help us feel better. One type of biofeedback that is useful is Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Heart Rate Variability is one type of marker of aging. When we are younger our heart rate variability is at its greatest. “As we age the range of variation in our resting heart rate becomes smaller. Although the age-related decline in HRV is a natural process, having abnormally low HRV for one’s age group is associated with increased risk of future health problems and premature mortality.” (Harvard Health Publishing) Reducing stress lessens that wear and tear on the nervous system, leading to the body’s natural healing processes.
With an increasing number of people who are entering their senior years, monitoring your health becomes a new part of your daily routine. What is great is the embracing of wearable and mobile fitness trackers! Some data shows that 17% of Americans over 65 use technology to track biofeedback. “I think it makes sense that the older demographics show interest…For one, they’re much more engaged in their health due to general focus around chronic diseases, and they’re in that risk group. Secondly, we know that older demographics have adopted mobile technology at a rate which we had not expected, and most of these activity trackers use the smartphone or tablet as a hub device.” (Forbes)
Heart Rate Variability Broken Down
Heart Rate Variability is the measurement of the “…variation in time between each heartbeat. This variation is controlled by a primitive part of the nervous system …[that] works regardless of our desire and regulates, among other things, our heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and digestion.” (Harvard Health Publishing) Our brains are always processing information, which signals to the rest of the body what it should be doing (fight-flight-relaxation-etc.). This information could be in relation to a bad night’s sleep, an argument, or something exciting like getting engaged, or eating a really tasty meal. “However, if we have persistent instigators such as stress, poor sleep, unhealthy diet, dysfunctional relationships, isolation or solitude, and lack of exercise, this balance may be disrupted, and your fight-or-flight response can shift into overdrive.” (Harvard Health Publishing)
This is when checking in on our biofeedback in the form of Heart Rate Variability is useful. This noninvasive monitoring of how we are doing is based on the variation between subsequent heartbeats. The frequency will be low if we are stressed and “…if one is in a more relaxed state, the variation between beats is high.” (Harvard Health Publishing) The trick is to learn how to switch gears once you have identified this biofeedback. If we learn to switch gears quickly we are able to build and maintain our resilience and flexibility.
Above we mentioned a keyword: resilience. We have posted about resilience before. The reason we are touching on this ability is because it can help in many areas of our lives. Being more resilient allows us to build stronger relationships, be more caring when we receive feedback, and overall reduce stress, worry and fatigue. Getting better at being resilient can be directly developed by using biofeedback devices. When our fitness monitor buzzes, we can give a thankful smile for the information it has shown us.
Many of us strive to be healthier. We can support ourselves in that goal through obtaining biofeedback, especially through heart rate variability measurement, and by using that feedback to build a healthier lifestyle which can result in becoming more resilient.