HeartMath Training: An FAU First

FAU becomes the first campus in the nation to institutionalize HeartMath — a program that connects the heart and brain for faculty and students.


FAU certified HeartMath Trainers at a class in Orlando May 2015. Photo provided by Gabriella Boehmer HeartMath Director of Public Relations

Bibi Patel, Contributing Writer

A training program consisting of self-regulation and heart coherence, HeartMath, is making its way to FAU, and is already being implemented into the College of Nursing’s curriculum. This makes FAU the first campus in the nation to institutionalize HeartMath for faculty, staff, and students according to this press release.

The HeartMath Institute is a non-profit organization founded in 1991 by Doc Childre whose mission is to “help bring people to their physical, mental, and emotional systems into balanced alignment with their heart’s intuitive guidance.”

Scientists in the institute are looking for tools that find the connection between heart and mind with the belief that this connection “empowers people to greatly reduce stress, increase resilience, and unlock their natural intuitive guidance for making better choices,” according to their website.

Heartmath works by developing psychophysiological coherence which is the synchronization of physical, mental and emotional systems, and this coherence can be measured by heart-rhythm patterns, according to the HeartMath FAQ. By using techniques and devices to balance heart rhythm, a connection is developed between the brain and the “heart brain” and this connection is, “a state of optimal clarity, perception, and performance” as described on their site.

The press release points out in settings where the program is in use, there has been an increase in student graduation rates and test scores and a reduction in test and social anxiety.

Gabriella Boehmer, Director of Public Relations at HeartMath shared a document regarding an academic study of HeartMath to the University Press. In this study Doctor Ross May, a researcher in the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the College of Medicine at Florida State University, and his colleagues found an association between cardiovascular risk and poor academic performance.

90 students were assigned into three groups: one that received self-regulation techniques and a computer based heart rate variability (HRV) coherence device called emWave, another that received high intensity aerobic training and one group which had no intervention.

Tests such as the School Burnout Inventory and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory were taken before and after a four week period. GPA and academic absenteeism were also recorded.

The results showed that the group that received HeartMath techniques had improved in academic success and concentration, and demonstrated a decrease in test anxiety and absenteeism in comparison to the other groups.

HeartMath training was brought to FAU by faculty who have previous experience with the program. Vice President of Public Service, Jorge Calzadilla experienced HeartMath in his previous position as Executive Director of the Youth Learning Institute at Clemson University. The YLA implemented HeartMath techniques for youth development.

Dean of the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, Marlaine Smith R.N., Ph.D., introduced the nursing faculty to HeartMath at a faculty retreat in August 2014. In an e-mail interview with University Press she stated that HeartMath fits the college’s emphasis on student success.

While the institute is non-profit, the College of Nursing had a contract negotiated for the costs of training. The actual cost for training 23 faculty members in the College of Nursing as well as other employees was not given as of publication time.

Smith stated, “We see [HeartMath] as a strategy for self care, so important for nurses, for student success and for creating a more positive work environment. Faculty are interested in conducting research on the outcomes associated with using HeartMath techniques.”

The training for faculty to become certified involved a month-long, pre-training period where a workbook was completed, three hour-long sessions with a certified mentor, as well as a four-day training that consisted of lectures and teach-back sessions. In the teach-back sessions, trainees would present a topic in front of other trainees and would later be critiqued on their performance.