March 15, 2024
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Your heart rate is a lot more than just a bunch of pumps of a muscle. A long time ago (back in the 60s), scientists realized that changes in cardiac activity are related to psychological phenomena; in other words, thoughts and emotions change your heartbeat. And you know it, so I will give you a few examples to refresh your memory.

Do you remember when you fell in love for the first time? Or when you are afraid of walking through a dark street in the middle of the night? Or maybe you were surfing, and suddenly, you noticed a huge marine life swimming fast under your board, and you thought, “What was that?” Your heart was pumping fast, and you became alert and started looking around for any movement in the water; your muscles were prepared to react fast to any movement close to you. All that “activation” was triggered by some movement and the association of what it could be. 

And there is a lot more; sometimes, the perceptions of change in your body will trigger even more changes in your mind. For example, awareness of heart changes can also influence your emotions. So, think back to when you were preparing for that important presentation at school or work, and you noticed your heart beating fast; you thought, “I am nervous,” and then you remembered what happened the last time you felt nervous. Suddenly, you got hooked up in this chain of negative thoughts and worries about your physiological reactions; you said, “OMG, I am anxious!” which triggered even more troublesome thoughts, increased heart rate, difficulty concentrating, jittery movements, and forgetting what you had to say! 

Okay, now that we agreed that states of your mind influence states of your body and states of your body influence states of your mind, let’s find a way to accurately measure it and train the new responses that optimize performance and health.

Now, think about the relationship between heart activity and speed of response when performing motor tasks, heart activity and cognitive function such as problem-solving and imagery, and heart activity and changes in perception and attention and the importance it has in orienting reactions. So, being able to identify the signs of too much activation and learning to self-regulate would be great because it will lead to enhanced athletic performance. 

Since the first studies in the old sixties to this day, we have developed the science and technology that allows us to look at heart variations during highly emotional/stressful situations and also athletic performance. Those signs being measured are called physiological recordings (similar to what you see in a hospital). However, if I explain and show you how it is changing in response to environmental stimuli, it is called Biological feedback or Biofeedback. And if you start training new responses, it is called Biofeedback training. If you develop the ability to modify your responses to maximize athletic performance and improve health, you learned the skill, and the intervention worked. 

Now, remember that the science that looks at interactions between mind and body is called Psychophysiology. However, Psychophysiology is also about hormones and behavior, genetic influences on behavior, circadian rhythms, sleep, and a lot more knowledge borrowed from other sciences. Can you briefly think about how hormones, genetics, and sleep influence your performance and all the current tools and technology to monitor it?  Then, think about the number of tools that professionals who are trained in psychophysiological approaches to sports performance have to offer you, from monitoring your readiness to perform to changing default responses, and tell me if you still believe that mental training is just about random breathing exercises, meditation, talk therapy, or any other placebo mental training intervention.

So that you know your body can speak to you, it is your decision to listen and train new responses. In the past, we were told that our reactions were automatic and unchangeable. But today, we know we can measure them and train new patterns of responses to maximize performance at work, in sports, and in life in general. And as I said, “measure it” so you can change. It is not guesswork. It is not one size fits all breath work or relaxation techniques. We are different in our height, weight, body composition, and the way we respond to the challenges we face. So real mental training is about assessing how you respond, comparing you to you at your best, and training the responses that maximize YOUR performance. 

If you want to chat about it, schedule your free consultation


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