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Are you biofeedback curious?

As a deeply introspective person, I've always been really curious about biofeedback. It's one thing to deepen my self-awareness through reflective exercises like journaling. It's entirely different to gain insight inside the ways my body functions in a given situation.

Biofeedback includes the use of technology that enables us to receive real-time data about the physiological functions in our body. This could include anything from heart rate, to breathing, to brain activity. The information enables us to better understand the impacts different stimuli, behaviors or thoughts have on how our body is functioning.

Who wouldn't want to know this?

I mean, to be fair, ignorance can be bliss. The less you know, the less there is to worry about. Afterall, what you don't know can't kill you....err, wait, that's not actually true!

What I personally find so fascinating about biofeedback, is how it provides data driven insights. It's a way to separate the fact from the fiction.

The facts being the data, like Heart Rate Variability (more about that later). And the fiction being the story we tell ourselves, "If I'm not self-critical, I will lose my edge and fail."

Not that long ago, biofeedback was not very accessible. It required working with a trained medical professional in their office using expensive equipment. And the costs aren't always been covered by insurance, making it an out of pocket expense.

But advancements in technology have made it much more accessible.

Do you have a smart phone? Well, you're in luck. With the right app, it can actually provide you with biofeedback. And the resources available are fairly low cost or even free.

In 2019, I enrolled in a course with the HeartMath Institute. As part of the program, I received an Inner Balance Trainer. This was my first foray into using biofeedback.

The Inner Balance Trainer reads your Heart Rate Variability (HRV), which indicates whether your heart is incoherent or coherent. This is helpful information because our hearts actually regulate more of our brain functions than vice versa. This occurs via a magical portal known as the vagus nerve (kidding, this is science not magic).

When our hearts are incoherent, our brain function is impaired. This makes it hard to think clearly, make decisions, problem solve, empathize with others, etc. Whereas, when our hearts reach coherence, it facilitates optimal brain function. This enables us to navigate high stress situations with greater ease and clarity.

As I embarked on my journey with the Inner Balance Trainer, a friend warned me, "Be careful, Ariana. With your personality, this could become stressful. It's easy to get frustrated when the monitor shows you're incoherent, which just makes it harder to get into coherence."

This, of course, simply added fuel to my fire to prove her otherwise.

But she was right. When my monitor showed I was incoherent, I was frustrated. Sometimes I was sure I had reached coherence only to look at the screen and see my level was very much incoherent. This was flustering.

The more self-critical my thoughts were the more stuck I became.

Eventually I looked at the dynamics and thought, "Isn't that interesting." Letting go of judgment was the first step to effectively leveraging the insights from the biofeedback.

It was shocking to learn that my baseline for operating in the world was anxious. I had never considered myself an anxious person before. But the insights I received from the biofeedback showed me that the modes I was most comfortable operating within, were detrimental to my overall health and wellbeing.

Yikes! And here I thought being a go getter was a good thing.

It turned out, I was creating additional pressure on myself that was taxing to my body, my energy, my focus, my emotional bandwidth, and my overall capacity. Apparently, relying heavily on my thinking brain to problem solve, ideate and strategize, was more draining than it was helpful. I had to accept that my overly self-critical inner dialogue was hurting, not helping me.

For me, the pathway to heart coherence was compassion. Whenever my heart became incoherent, I activated compassion, not just as an idea but as a felt sense within my body. Day-in and day-out, the biofeedback reinforced my efforts.

Receiving biofeedback enabled me to learn different techniques and practices for reaching and sustaining heart coherence. The more I utilized this technology, the more new pathways and habits were formed that facilitated greater ease and peace within. This resulted in rewriting my limiting patterns rooted in anxiety into empowering practices based in compassion.

Over the last four years, I have worked with many other leaders that have successfully used the Inner Balance Trainer to create greater calm, ease and resilience. The technology has served as a powerful tool for enabling wholehearted leaders to connect with and listen to their intuition. This allows for greater alignment between their intentions and impact, which reduces their felt sense of stress while turning bold visions into reality.

In this day and age, biofeedback like this is a tremendous resource to have. The presence of constant stressors, the fast pace of change and the pervasive use of fear in media, all perpetuate a state of incoherence.

Without the proper tools for dealing with the pace and intensity of modern society, our nervous systems are rattled senseless.

When we are perpetually incoherent, we are not able to be the wholehearted leaders we aspire to be. Instead, we are reactive, and dysregulated. This not only makes it harder to deal, it creates more tension and stress for those we are around. It's like trying to do multiplication problems in our head while walking through a haunted house as a third grader. The intensity of the stimuli makes it too hard to concentrate when the executive functioning of our brains is out to lunch.

But these highly reactive, go-go-go modes of operation do not need to continue being our baseline. Biofeedback is a valuable tool that enables transformational growth. It cuts through the clutter of the ego and thinking-brain, and gets to the heart of the matter (pun intended) so we may take steps to make conscious shifts to improve our wellbeing and leadership.

But don't just take my word for it. Give it a try. You can download the Global Coherence App for FREE and experiment with it today.

Are you biofeedback curious and want to experience greater calm and ease? Join me for a NEW in-person workshop. Leading with The Heart on Sept 24th. More information and registration is available online. And if you'd like to attend the workshop but can't make it, let me know - I'll schedule additional sessions as the need arises and also have some availability for 1-1 coaching.

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