Dean Howes helps students and staff transform their stress into resilience using Heartmath

On Thursday 7 March 2019, the University supported University Mental Health and Well-being day to help break the stigma surrounding mental health. The occasion was marked with a series of workshops and events through the day and how we can promote good well-being with small steps in our day to day life.

Teaching Fellow, Dean Howes, who teaches a variety of mindfulness, psychology and coaching courses and modules, including our Mindfulness Short Courses, ran a workshop open to both students and staff on the practices of Heartmath it’s an association to Mindfulness.

What is Heartmath?

HeartMath helps you to transform your stress into resilience and to achieve higher levels of performance, living your life with more heart, health, and happiness.

It is a system of simple and powerful self-regulation techniques which are easy to learn and designed to be used “in the moment”, whatever the situation, meaning that you can bring your best self to your personal, social and professional lives.

Both Heartmath and Mindfulness aim to navigate away from a negative mind, which is today’s world can appear ever present and always emerging. Many people in today’s society even suffer from a double negative, where they feel worried even when they are experiencing good moments, anticipating the negative which is to come, such as the next day at work or an upcoming assessment.

How do you practice Heartmath?

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Heartmath, which was founded in America aims to help people establish a positive outlook and be in the moment in a positive way.

By measuring Heart Rate Variability (HRV) using HeartMath’s biofeedback equipment, individuals can establish their current stress levels to reveal whether they are in a positive state or a negative state. Often, people who are in a positive state will see a coherent pattern in their HRV, whereas people who are in a negative state, such as those who suffer from anxiety, will see a chaotic pattern.

You can also use awareness of your HRV to help improve your overall mood and performance. It has been found to be more successful to change your mood when you have knowledge of your performance state, so if you are in a lower performance state with a negative mood, you can shift to a lower performance state but with a positive outlook.

For example, an individual may find themselves lacking energy but also displaying signs of anxiety or depression and therefore do not wish to participate in physical activity to improve mood. These people can instead find calming techniques such as reading or listening to music rather than higher energy activities, such as cycling or walking.

Outcomes of Heartmath
The overall aim of Heartmath is to change our inner balance so the body, mind, and emotions are working together in a coherent way. The first step of doing this is to be aware of our experience in a given moment (Mindfulness).  From this awareness, we have the opportunity to change our rhythm of being by adopting a positive mindset and cultivating appreciation (HeartMath).

Mindfulness itself has been shown to be an extremely effective method of navigating the difficulties of life and leaning into positive experiences. In fact, deep states of mindfulness are known to be as rewarding to the body as good sleep and 20 minutes of mindfulness every day/every other day for a period of 8 weeks has been shown to produce neurological changes.

How can I practise mindfulness?

There are many different ways to cultivate mindfulness, from courses (such as the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme) to online guides to books. There are also different varieties of mindfulness and it can be used for many outcomes.  Most mindfulness approaches will involve three main practices, being:

  • Mindful Breathing
  • Body Scan
  • Calming the mind


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Interested in learning more about Mindfulness? We run 10-week courses in Mindfulness which can be studied in the evening and online. For more information, please visit our website. 

Find out more about our Mindfulness Short Courses at the Centre for Lifelong Learning.

About the blogger

Dean is a teaching fellow in the Centre for Lifelong Learning who teaches a variety of mindfulness, psychology and coaching courses and modules. He has been a tutor at the centre for 8 years, teaching on the open studies and certificate programmes.

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