Here is the Overview:
The lesson goal is to introduce the concept of creating a new baseline and why it is important.
- An important part of sustaining your resilience requires practices that recharge your inner battery and add energy. This often requires establishing a new, more energy- efficient physiological baseline.
- Physiological and emotional baselines are formed and how sustaining heart coherence for a few minutes each day can reset our baselines.
Think of physiological and behavioral baselines as set points or default settings. Once they are set, your system strives to operate around them. For example, when you set the thermostat in your home to a certain temperature, the heating system strives to maintain it.
Although more complex than the thermostat, the body uses very similar methods to keep our systems regulated and operating optimally. Our blood pressure, body temperature and hormone levels all have set points or baselines that the body strives to maintain. We also establish a type of baseline for our attitudes, emotions and behaviors.
These baselines are the types of attitudes, emotions and behaviors you naturally and unconsciously default to, but it doesn’t mean the default point that is established is optimal or healthy.
In practical terms, someone may have an automatic response of feeling anxious every time his boss walks by. That anxious feeling has become the automatic response and happens without his thinking about it.
Baselines can shift. You can build and establish a healthier baseline or automatic default point.
Familiar Neural Patterns
The HeartMath tools help promote a repatterning process. In that process, the unproductive default patterns that underlie unconscious, automatic responses such as becoming impatient or irritated about a situation such as waiting in traffic or long lines, are progressively replaced by healthier physiological, emotional, cognitive and behavioral patterns that become the “automatic” or familiar way of being.
Establishing a coherent baseline creates a new neural pattern that becomes more familiar and automatic.
With a new baseline, we have greater emotional stability so we don’t fly off the handle when something upsetting or unexpected happens.
Past experiences build a set of familiar patterns within us that become imbedded in our neural architecture and establish a baseline reference.
Establishing a Coherent Baseline
There is a strong and direct nervous system pathway from the heart to the amygdala.
The activity in the cells in the central core of the amygdala, a key brain center involved in emotional experience, is synchronized to the heartbeat. Every time the heart beats, the amygdala has a synchronous response.
The input from the heart and body to the amygdala helps create our actual feeling experience of an emotion.
The amygdala monitors the body’s internal rhythms, especially the ongoing neural input from the heart and facial muscles. The amygdala becomes familiar with patterns and rhythms it experiences often. This is a type of “memory,” which forms a baseline reference.
The brain strives to maintain a match between the familiar baseline patterns and works to maintain the familiar state. What is familiar is our default attitude or behavior.
If emotions such as anxiety, frustration or impatience are experienced often, the incoherent heart rhythms and other associated body changes become familiar, establishing our baseline reference.
By practicing becoming more coherent often enough and over long enough time periods, we can establish a new baseline. This is like downloading a new operating system or building a new foundation.We operate from a new set point rather than from automatic programs.
Here is a research study illustrating this point.
Research Showing Increased HRV and Baseline Shift
The graphs in this slide show the heart-rhythm patterns of two high school students who are part of a group of 140 students. The patterns of the two students are representative of the findings for the entire group. The two patterns on top belong to one of the two students and the two on the bottom belong to the other.
The heart rhythms shown in red reflect their resting HRV before they learned and regularly practiced the coherence techniques and used the emWave over a four-month period.
The plots on the right side show their resting HRV at the end of the study, after they had practiced the techniques and had used the emWave. At the time of this measurement, they were not using any techniques. They were sitting still as if waiting for a bus.
The graphs clearly show there was an increase in their HRV, indicating they had more resilience. It’s also clear that their rhythms were more coherent, meaning there was a change in their baseline patterns.
You can easily see in both examples that their heart-rhythm patterns were more ordered and coherent. The heart rhythms also have greater amplitude (the height measured from top to bottom of the rhythm.)
These are examples of two students, but the study found that the group as a whole had a significant change in their baselines.
It’s important to understand that when the heart rhythms of the students were being measured, they were not practicing a coherence technique. By practicing the HeartMath techniques on a regular basis, they changed their baseline over time.
In practical terms for us, in order to shift baselines we must shift our baseline to achieve sustained behavior change. Shifting a baseline takes practice. How long it will take to make a baseline shift depends on how deeply engrained the existing patterns are. It also depends on each person’s sincerity of practice. On average, this can take about six weeks.