How To Increase HRV With Guided Breathing, Mindfulness, Meditation
Certain breathing patterns have a strong effect on Heart Rate Variability (HRV). As do your mindset and mental state. This can be detected in real-time using the Elite HRV app's Open Reading and watching the changes in Heart Rate Variability and overall heart rate pattern during a reading.
Disclaimer: The below steps are for information purposes only. You should use your judgment and/or consult a qualified coach or health practitioner.
Increasing HRV With Breathing
Human adults naturally breathe between 12-18 breaths per minute. Fit individuals and athletes may naturally breathe slower.
Step 1: Establish A Baseline
This step is simple. Record an HRV reading without altering your breathing pattern or doing anything specific. Just breathe naturally and measure HRV in whichever position you may want to test (seated or standing, for example).
Step 2: Add Guided Breathing
Turn on the Guided Breathing function in the Elite HRV app by selecting a type of reading, toggling on the "Breathing Pattern," and then clicking the pattern to open the settings.
Adjust the speed to be slightly lower than your estimated natural breathing pace (it doesn't need to be exact). If you aren't sure, start with around 8-10 breaths per minute. Now go back to the HRV reading screen and follow the breathing guide, inhaling as it expands, and exhaling as it contracts.
You may notice a slightly different pattern in your heart rate data (the red line chart during an HRV reading). You may also notice that the live HRV and HR values are different than your baseline test (usually higher HRV and lower or same HR).
This is called biofeedback and helps you gain awareness and control of a process in your body that was previously outside of your control.
Step 3: Adjust The Speed and Pattern
Now you can experiment with slowing down your breathing rate in the Options. You can also adjust the breathing pattern to match any number of inhale to exhale ratios, add pauses between inhales and exhales, follow a box breathing pattern, etc.
Typically a longer exhale specifically stimulates more parasympathetic activity and a higher increase in HRV.
If reducing stress and/or increasing HRV is your goal, then longer exhales may help with that.
Step 4: Add Mindfulness, etc.
As you find a comfortable breathing pattern to follow, you may start to add music, meditations, or mindfulness practices to the routine to further enhance the acute benefits.
Step 5: Use In Real Life 🔔
This is arguably the most important step. Once you learn which breathing patterns and other practices have a noticeable effect on your HRV, you can start integrating that pattern into your day-to-day lifestyle. This is where the biggest benefits and lasting results are achieved.
It doesn't have to perfectly match the breathing pattern or biofeedback practice. Just by bringing awareness to your body in stressful situations and making an effort to tip the balance, you can drastically improve how you perform under stress and even cause lasting improvements in health over time.
As always, measuring your Morning Readiness baseline HRV readings over time will help you understand whether the efforts are causing a lasting and measurable effect over time.
When Meditation Does not have the Intended Effect
Meditation may not be having the intended effect for several reasons. You may be experiencing the largest shift in nervous system activity by transitioning into meditation, but not by maintaining it, or both. There are also structural and psychological stressors that can be present when one stays in a still position for any length of time. It is easiest to lie down, supine for a longer period of time, and sitting can be very stressful on the body when maintained. These could all be contributing factors. Try experimenting with different positions during your meditations.