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Mental Coherence
By: Craig Martin (profile)
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Ever wanted to be able to measure how relaxed you are, how coherent and focused? How you can learn to change emotional patterns or overreactions?

Ever wanted to be able to measure how relaxed you are, how coherent and focused? How you can learn to change emotional patterns or overreactions?

Finding a secret to overcoming or neutralising emotional stress has been one of golf's most frustrating mysteries. Most players sabotage the prospect of good results repeatedly - destroying technique while regularly fighting forces brought on by fear, tension, anger or frustration.

Using HeartMathTM is one simple way to achieve this. By reading your heart rhythms, but much more importantly the space between each heartbeat, you can find out just how emotionally healthy and coherent you are?

What is HeartMath?

HeartMath is a simple device (see picture) that picks up a person’s heart rhythms, either from the ear or from the finger. It constantly displays and updates the information on a computer screen and gives the person their coherence levels, which they can then affect through breathing and meditative techniques.

The graphs below show both an incoherent (A) rhythm connected more to impatience, stress and reactivity while a coherent (B) rhythm reflects more patience, responsiveness and happier emotions.

The Heart while resting was previously thought to operate much like a ticking metronome, beating regularly at a steady rhythm. Scientists and physicians are now showing, however, that this is not the case. Rather than being regular, the beat of a healthy heart - even at rest is actually irregular, with the time intervals between each heartbeat constantly changing. This natural occurrence, the variation in the heart rate, is known as the Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

HeartMath can help facilitate a fundamental shift in focus, well-being and consciousness, hence the potential positives during sport performance are obvious, especially sports which are more ‘action’ based like skiing, archery and golf, or certain specific skills in like goal kicking in Rugby and American Football or penalty taking in Soccer.

The Science and Philosophy

Most people have been taught that the Heart is only responding to neural signals sent by the brain, and it is not commonly known that the Heart in reality sends many more signals to the brain. More importantly  the Heart signals have a great effect on the function of the brain, influencing emotions and cognitive faculties, for example a person’s level of attention, perceptive abilities, memory function and the ability to solve problems.

In a simple sense, and increasingly seen as important are the production of certain chemicals needed to feel well and perform better. Under normal circumstances the body regulates your natural Cortisol levels but when feeling stressed, the body releases too much Cortisol. Cortisol is frequently known as the “stress hormone” because it is secreted in greater levels when the body is in the fight or flight response.

While using Heartmath and while practicing being in a state of coherence a golfer can better ‘control’ their emotional state and produce more of the ‘happy chemicals’ such as oxytocin and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone).

The potential benefits for golfers?

Practically every golfer at least occasionally ‘gets in their own way’ emotionally. Often during certain states of emotional imbalance unhelpful chemicals can be released into the system and indeed stay there for a period of time. For this reason an emotionally ‘angry episode’ could lead to a player being affected for a number of holes or in some cases almost the entire round.

HeartMath accompanied with breathing techniques can show a player exactly how different emotions affect performance, and most importantly offer  a player some tools to change or lessen a destructive emotion into a productive emotion right on the spot, in the present on the golf course.

You cannot have two emotions running concurrently, so if a player can replace their anger for example, with a more productive feeling like acceptance  then they will be more coherent and more emotionally ‘in control’


Coherence could be described as being more in a state of flow - where play and performance feel more natural and focused with clearer decision making. This measurable state also increases mind/body awareness while improving coordination, timing, motor skills, sensitivity and precision.

 

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