Edited by Jill Wright,
Several of our psychologists have recently been working with clients to help them get more in touch with the way their thoughts can affect their physical condition and use their minds and their breathing to control stress and achieve relaxation.
These sorts of tools are increasingly available to consumers, using inexpensive digital devices or iPhone and Android apps and sensors that can monitor Variable Heart Rate (HRV), by measuring the interval between heart beats.
With a little instruction, we've found that clients can achieve much better awareness of their stress levels, for instance, allowing them to refocus if necessary and achieve much better relaxation, improve their concentration, sleep patterns and potentially their creativity.
We've found that a lot of clients are amazed to discover how much they can influence their physical and psychological condition simply by becoming more aware of and changing the way they breathe.
One of our counselling psychologists recently reported being impressed by the ability of these devices to point to states of anxiety that clients simply weren't aware of. With a little instruction in mindful breathing, which is one of the things we look at in our mindfulness training, clients were able to see the impact on their heart rates of anxious thoughts.
In one case, the ability to measure heart rate and breathing rhythm helped a client who continually reported being "anxious" discover that what he was experiencing was not anxiety. That allowed the psychologist to turn the treatment to the real problem - depression.
One important symptom of depression is constant rumination over depressing thoughts. Because you can't simply instruct someone who is depressed to stop the gloomy thinking, psychologists instead can help them to take control of what they place their attention on. This can be a particularly powerful technique, and these apps and devices are a definite aid to that.
Some of the tools we use come from the US-based HeartMath. That site has a lot of useful resources. If you want to learn more, ask our Client Services department to book you in with one of our team members who use the technology.