HRV & Your Self-Control
Heart rate variability (HRV) is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval.
No; I’m not a doctor. I’m sure you’re wondering what the heck HRV is, and what it has to do with self-control.
As defined above, HRV is the measure of the tiny differences that occur between each heart beat. HRV has a direct influence on your ability to cope with stress and exert willpower and self-control. The higher the heart rate variability the better. The correlation between self-control and HRV was discovered by Suzanne Segerstrom, a professor of psychology at the university of Kentucky. When I first heard of this, I was ecstatic, there really is a physiologically way to measure self-control and maybe improve it.
One common misconception is that heart rate variability is the same as heart rate; it isn’t. Heart Rate Variability actually decreases with an increase in heart rate. Think about it, when do you feel more in control, when you’re agitated and your heart is beating at a fast rate, or when you’re calm?
Several factors affect HRV such as: aerobic fitness, age, genetics, body position, and general body health. A very common threat to HRV and hence; self-control is STRESS. Once the body and mind is under stress, HRV decreases.
The obvious question now is: how do we improve our HRV. There are several activities that improve HRV, activities that activate the parasympathetic nervous system boost HRV. Some of such activities are:
- Taking slow deep breaths
- Nature exercises (Taking walks in nature)
- Rest (not couch-potato rest, REAL REST)
- Aerobic Exercises
- Cold Showers
There a quite a number of amazing benefits of improved Heart Rate Variability, some of which are:
- Better cognitive and memory performance
- Reduced cortisol levels; which implies:
- Better blood sugar balance
- Better immune system
- Better Fertility
- Reduced high blood pressure
- Better self-control and willpower
- Stable mood
- Improved physical strength and endurance