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How does cardiac coherence relieve stress?

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The relaxing power of breathing on the body is well known. Through our inhalations and exhalations, we can relieve anxiety and bring lasting relief. Like meditation, heart resonance promotes a deep sense of relaxation. Thus, this therapeutic practice is based on short but regular breathing exercises, as expressed in the 365 rule. Where does this method come from, what are the benefits of cardiac coherence and why choose to combine it with virtual reality? We suggest you find out in this article.


What is cardiac coherence?


A focus on heart rate variability


In the collective unconscious, the heart beats regularly and constantly like a metronome. However, there is nothing linear about the heart rate; on the contrary, it presents small variations. This phenomenon, called heart rate variability (HRV), is easily observed on an electrocardiogram.

The degree of fluctuation between two contractions varies according to several parameters. In a state of stress, the variations increase, while a feeling of relaxation reduces them. So what does the concept of cardiac coherence mean? It corresponds to a state of stability of the variations reached thanks to a breathing method.


A breathing technique derived from neuroscience research


The concept of cardiac coherence emerged in the United States as a result of research in neuroscience and neurocardiology at the HeartMath Institute. These observations quickly aroused interest in improving the treatment of psychological disorders (depression, chronic insomnia, anxiety, etc.), but also in preventive action against cardiovascular diseases. How does this method work and why is it so beneficial to health? To understand this, we must look at our biological functioning.

The heart is subject to two opposing influences that are part of the autonomic nervous system, those of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (SNP). The first acts on the organism as an accelerator and is triggered in the event of danger, the second as a decelerator and is activated in the recovery phases, once the threat has passed.

Cardiac resonance aims to regulate the autonomic nervous system by synchronising the activity of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems with controlled breathing. The inhalation phase will stimulate the SNS, while the exhalation will act on the PNS. How to practice cardiac coherence to achieve this state of balance?


A relaxing practice based on the 365 method


In general, we breathe 12 to 15 times per minute at rest. The controlled breathing resulting from cardiac resonance divides this number by two, so it is not spontaneous. In addition, it is done through the mouth and not the nose. An important factor is to keep the inhalation and exhalation of equal length. However, it only takes a few minutes for the exercise to be effective. So how do we go about it?

Method 365 summarises the practice of cardiac coherence perfectly:

  • 3 gives an indication of a daily frequency. The exercise should be repeated three times a day (in the morning, before eating and at the end of the afternoon for optimal action);
  • 6 reflects the number of breaths per minute, with one inhalation and one exhalation each lasting 5 seconds (5 seconds of inhalation and exhalation alternating); 
  • 5 marks the length of the session, i.e. 5 minutes in total.

To practise 365 cardiac coherence, it is best to sit in a quiet, comfortable place where you feel at ease. Then sit or stand, but do not lie down. To avoid compressing your abdomen during the exercise, remember to uncross your legs, anchor your feet to the floor and keep your back straight. You are ready to experience all the benefits of cardiac coherence! And what are they?

Practising cardiac coherence effectively relieves stress.


What are the benefits of cardiac coherence?


Cardiac coherence has both short and long-term benefits. The positive effects on the body and mind are activated from the very first moments, since the method is based on a harmonization of the heart rhythm which induces hormonal regulation and thus a feeling of well-being. The long-term benefits are based on a strengthening of the immune system and a deep emotional rebalancing. Let’s take a closer look at the effects of this 365 method.


Psychological benefits


Heart Resonance allows you to learn to control your breathing in order to regulate your anxiety and stress. Thanks to this relatively simple technique, mood changes become manageable. The feeling of calmness appears quickly, which makes it possible to put dark thoughts into perspective and to approach the present in a more serene manner. In addition, this method has been shown to improve attention and concentration.

Harmonising the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems allows for a relaxation of emotional tensions and a reduction of mental ruminations. Indeed, studies have shown an improvement in stress and anxiety symptoms in a group of students, a positive effect on depression in adults, and a reduction in perinatal depression.


Physical health benefits


Breathing with the 365 method brings a feeling of serenity and calm. This effect is explained by its physiological action with :

  • a decrease in the level of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone;
  • an increase in the youth hormone, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone);
  • an increase in immunoglobulins (salivary IgA) which play a role in immune defence;
  • a favourable action on several neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin which prevent anxiety and depression;
  • an increased secretion of oxytocin, also called “happiness hormone” or “love hormone”;
  • an increase in alpha waves, which promote memory and learning.

As mentioned above, one of the first positive aspects noted in his study was the reduction of high blood pressure in hypertensive or pre-hypertensive adults. In addition, this non-drug method has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress-related chronic neck pain, as demonstrated in this study.

Combining cardiac coherence with virtual reality is an effective way to relax.


Why combine virtual reality with cardiac coherence to relieve stress?


Many practices can be combined with cardiac coherence to increase its effects tenfold, such as yoga, meditation or sophrology. Therapeutic virtual reality also relies on this method 365 to bring psychological and physical relief. Indeed, the objective of 3D glasses in the medical field is to offer a soothing space in which the user leaves his or her ailments behind. By combining immersion through VR technology and medical hypnosis with advanced psychology principles such as cardiac resonance, the device becomes more effective.

The Healthy Mind headsets invite users to perform exercises to calm their heart rate, for example by synchronising their breathing with a blue circle of varying size. The visualization makes the practice all the more fun and easy to access, even for beginners. Every detail is designed to be convincingly realistic and immersive.

Thanks to this multidisciplinary approach, the Healthy Mind device can be used in many hospitals, before, during and after a painful or anxiety-provoking procedure. It is even effective in other situations such as in retirement homes, before a visit to the dentist or to relax caregivers in their daily work. We invite you to consult the different cases of application or to ask for a demonstration. In addition to experiencing all the benefits of cardiac coherence, you will explore a unique universe designed for the sole purpose of relaxation.


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