I first wrote about emwave HeartMath earlier this year after trying it out at the Consumer Electronics Show. Now it's available on the Mac and I've had a chance to use it over the course of a few days. This is such a nifty little program: inexpensive, easy to use and good for the heart and soul. It may not be what you'd call enterprise-class
I first wrote about emwave HeartMath earlier this year after trying it out at the Consumer Electronics Show. Now it's available on the Mac and I've had a chance to use it over the course of a few days. This is such a nifty little program: inexpensive, easy to use and good for the heart and soul. It may not be what you'd call enterprise-class software, but any HR department would do well to get its high-stressed employees a copy of this (which is to say, these days, everyone).Here's a quick video demo of the product.
The software is easy enough to install and run, and it also comes with an ear sensor that connects to your computer via USB -- this feeds your pulse to the software. There's not much to it: a couple of options for viewing your pulse and bars for watching your coherence scores. Coherence is what HearthMath is, ultimately, about. While it measures your pulse, it does so over time, and with the notion that you can control your heart rate and even it out just by a bit of focus.
But not just any focus -- you need to have what the company calls "heart focused breathing," meaning that you are very aware of your heart. If you can suspend reality for a second, it asks you to think about breathing as if you're doing so through your heart. Just as important, you need to align your emotions, thinking positive thoughts -- in my experience this didn't mean excitable thoughts (do I need to explain that?), but rather thoughts of warmth and appreciation.
Now this may sound just a little too yogarific for you, but in truth, I was able to drive my coherence scores into a much better zone the more I did all of these things.
What it is measuring is what it calls your psychophysiological coherence, which isn't just the average number of heart beats per minute, but the changes between beats. "Short term (beat to beat) changes in heart rate are largely generated and amplified by the interaction between the heart and brain," according to a paper emwave has put together. The company has devised an algorithm to translate this into a meaningful result.
emwave cites several examples (like here and here) of large companies and government agencies who have improved overall employee satisfaction, which it claims has a correlating affect on employee productivity, reduced staff turnover and even cost reduction due to lowered doctor visits. Other tangible, possible benefits include reduced blood pressure and other stress related ailments.
There are a few interesting options here as well. For example, HearthMath comes with a coherence coach, which is simply a little animated exercise with an audio track that explains what you're supposed to do. The animation provides a breathing template, as it were, and you can make a few modifications, play some music (of the ilk you'll find while laying face first on a massage table), and away you go.
I tried a variety of environments. A peaceful Saturday after a nap (where I got some of my best scores, sometimes using the nap itself as my positive thought), during phone calls (disastrous), and just during the course of a workday. I came to believe that the best way to achieve coherence is to practice with the software, rather than just in the normal course of a day. The more you use it, the better you know the types of thoughts and actions that will create that coherence. For me, for example, if I closed my eyes and really focused on my breathing and thoughts, I didn't really drive my score as much as I would have liked; yet, when I actually watched my coherence levels via the colored bars in the software, I actually could gradually see the scores rise.
Once you've done this for a while, then you can use the software during the normal (and abnormal) courses of the day and it can serve as a visual and audio reminder (it chimes!) to focus on the things that provide that coherence for you. The obvious goal, of course, is to take all of those stressful situations and teach you not to have that stress at all. emwave says that practice creates an "internal reference point or state" that you can essentially automate in response to stressful situations.
Fritz Nelson is an Executive Editor at InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.
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