Tag Archives: meditation

What You Need To Know About the “New Biofeedback” and Stress

We are all familiar with what biofeedback means. Some of us have experienced the use of biofeedback when learning how to do something. For instance, a student learning to drive can use a machine that measures reaction time and tells the student whether he braked in time to avoid an accident (or not).

There’s a new term, “generative feedback,” that is just coming into use, so you may not know what it means. Generative feedback is a subset of biofeedback, and means feedback that drives change in behavior.

For example, hybrid cars have a visual display that tells the driver when she is driving in a way that conserves fuel most efficiently. A driver soon learns that when she accelerates too quickly, accelerates on downhill slopes, brakes unnecessarily, or fails to take advantage of gravity and momentum in general, she is wasting gas. She modifies her behavior as a result of the feedback, and saves money. Generative feedback doesn’t just report results; it drives change.

It’s not as easy to change some behaviors. We may say we want to be less stressed-out, but it’s hard to know how to do that in the moment when your boss has just dumped a task on you that is due tomorrow—when she could have passed it along to you three weeks ago—and you are already behind because you’re trying to cope with an understaffed project. It’s not like the hybrid car example, where there is clear feedback, and it’s obvious and easy to modify the behaviors.

Worse, some people don’t even know when they are stressed. Stress doesn’t care whether you know it or not—it wreaks its damage on the body anyway. High blood pressure has been called the “silent killer,” but stress is even more damaging. Stress can cause high blood pressure as well as a host of other illnesses, including heart disease, gastric disease, and more. The annual medical cost of treating stress-related medical problems was estimated by Kessler and Greenberg in “The Economic Burden of Anxiety and Stress Disorders” at $100 billion per year in the United States alone.

This is because we lack generative feedback to drive behavioral change. It’s not enough to just desire to change. We need to know what a given behavior does in our bodies, and we need to see the results of a change in behavior. This gives us the motivation—and the means—to make a lasting change.

“All very well,” you might say. “But I haven’t got the time or the money to pop into my doctor’s office every day to monitor my stress levels—even if the doc had the time for me, which he most certainly doesn’t.”

And that’s where today’s mobile technology comes in. Using an inexpensive heart monitor like runners use, SweetBeat™ for the iPhone, iPad and ITouch monitors stress levels no matter where you are or what you’re doing. SweetBeat tells you when you’re too stressed, and provides a tool for reducing stress on the spot. You can literally watch your stress level drop as you breathe regularly and deeply, bringing your nervous system back into balance.

Even better, you can upload your SweetBeat sessions to MySweetBeat on the SweetWater Health website. In MySweetBeat, you can see your sessions on a calendar, color-coded by average stress level. You can view session summaries or look at a graphed version of your session and see where stress peaked or dropped. Now you have information that you can use to manage your stress and work to avoid or reduce exposure to stressful situations.

For instance, you may notice that your stress is highest when you meet with your boss. You can’t avoid meeting with your boss, but you can take a few moments before the meeting to reduce your stress before the meeting begins. Because you know that you are stressed in this situation, you may be able to find other ways of making it less stressful, such as suggesting meeting in the conference room instead of her office—or you may even decide you need to find a new boss!

The old chestnut says that knowledge is power. Generative feedback is knowledge about what’s really happening, and gives you the means and motivation to effect positive change in your life. Go for it!



Heart Disease Plagued Cavemen, Too

We think of cardiovascular disease as the result of our modern couch-potato, fast-food lifestyle, but it ain’t exactly so. A 5,000-year-old mummy discovered on the Italian side of the Öetzal Alps and nicknamed “Öetzi” or “The Iceman,” might have died of a heart attack if someone hadn’t killed him first. Scientists have found that Öetzi was genetically predisposed to heart disease, and at the age of 45, already had hardening of the arteries.

Of course, stone-age people probably lived stress-filled lives (Öetzi WAS murdered, after all) and their nutrition, while 100% natural and organic, was literally catch-as-catch-can. Stress is still a factor in modern heart health; to find out more about stress and how you can easily detect and manage it, check out http://www.sweetwaterhrv.com.

Download SweetBeat™, the iPhone stress management app.

Another Study Confirms Health Benefits of Chocolate—Thank Goodness!

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants experienced small improvements in blood vessel function and lowered insulin levels. Other studies have shown chocolate to be helpful in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. It has to be dark chocolate, and the darker the better. While scientists are not entirely certain why chocolate works, they suspect the positive effects are due to flavonoids, which are also found in dark fruits, nuts, tea, and red wine.

Download SweetBeat™, the iPhone stress management app.

Chewing Gum Raises Heart Rate Variability

Well, there had to be SOME reason why people chew gum, right? A recent Japanese study showed that when people are acutely stressed (the stress in this study was created by loud noise), chewing gum raises their heart rate variability (HRV), which reduces stress—even though the participants did not report any subjective lowering of stress. To find out more about stress and how you can easily detect and manage it, check out http://www.sweetwaterhrv.com.

Download SweetBeat™, the iPhone stress management app.

Extramarital Sex Raises Heart Attack Risk

OK, guys, don’t say we didn’t warn you: a recent report from the American Heart Association says that men having extramarital affairs are more likely to have a heart attack during sex. (No word about the risk for women having affairs.) The surmise is that the stress caused by enjoying forbidden fruit in an unfamiliar venue can bring on heart attack. But not to worry; sexual activity is the cause of less than 1% of all heart attacks, and is generally thought to be good for your heart.

Download SweetBeat™, the iPhone stress management app.

You CAN Die from a Broken Heart…

…but most people recover. Broken Heart Syndrome is a genuine medical condition, usually brought on in healthy people by sudden and surprising events such as death of a loved one, or losing one’s true love to another. In Broken Heart Syndrome, there is no evidence of a heart attack or a blocked artery—and yet the patient’s heart doesn’t function properly, causing symptoms identical to those suffered during heart attacks. Scientists believe it is caused by a sudden rush of hormones. Doctors see about 30,000 cases of Broken Heart Syndrome every year in the United States. Thankfully, it rarely results in death.

Step Away from the Computer…and Go Out with a Friend

Having strong social relationships is good for your health. Studies on men have found that those who have multiple friendships are less likely to suffer from heart disease. While not clearly verified by science, it could be that having friends and an active social life reduces stress, which in turn is good news for your heart. To find out more about stress and how you can easily detect and manage it, check out http://www.sweetwaterhrv.com. Beat Healthy!