The Effect of Mindfulness on Heart Rate Control

Abstract

An experiment was conducted to test the hypothesis that mindful attention to change regarding heart rate (HR) would result in greater control over HR. Experimental groups monitored the changing or stable nature of HR, respectively. All participants’ HR slowed during the decrease phase. Participants whose attention was directed to the stable nature of HR performed the worst on the increase phase of the HR control task. These results suggest that mindfulness, instantiated here as attention to variability, is a means to increasing control.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    The 32 participants whose data were excluded from analyses, because they reported that they had engaged in physical intervention strategies in order to adjust their heart rate and, thus, had not followed instructions. These participants’ performance showed that they were able to change their HR significantly more than the other groups, which would be expected since physical intervention strategies alter HR substantially (e.g., an increased respiration rate dramatically increases HR).

  2. 2.

    Limitations: The small sample size weakened the power to detect differences between conditions. It is notable, however, that significant findings were identified even with a small sample size. The attrition rates were relatively high in this study, with approximately 1 in 4 participants failing to return to the second session. It is likely that the compensation amount was insufficient to motivate some participants to satisfy the study’s requirements. Individuals who did follow through with the study’s requirements may have been especially motivated. Self-regulation techniques are generally applied to a clinical population who are seeking to alleviate some type of distressful symptom and therefore highly motivated.

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Correspondence to Laura L. Delizonna.

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Delizonna, L.L., Williams, R.P. & Langer, E.J. The Effect of Mindfulness on Heart Rate Control. J Adult Dev 16, 61–65 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-009-9050-6

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Mindlessness
  • Heart rate control
  • Mindful attention