Experiments in Wellbeing – Matters of the Heart

I’m giving a short talk on my current experiences of meditation at Workplace Trends this week. As part of this wellbeing experiment, I’ve been using an emwave device made by a company called HeartMath. The emwave measures certain physiological outputs to help determine how I respond to different scenarios when sitting at my desk.


The device measures my respiration, heart rate variability and blood pressure rhythm in order to determine how coherent I am, or am not. The definition of coherence as offered by the good people at HeartMath is a ‘state of optimal function’. The emwave is simple to use – I just clip it to my earlobe, plug the other end into my computer, fire up the software and off I go.

At Work

At work

This screenshot shows me at work, just doing regular work stuff at my desk. My heart rate variability is at the top of the screen and my accumulated coherence is shown in the blue graph (on this shot you can just see the ‘ideal zone’ represented by two lines disappearing off the top of the chart. In the bottom right hand corner is a reading of low, medium and high coherence.

When I’m at my desk, I ‘reward’ myself with frequent short breaks as a way of recharging my mental batteries. I often used to take five and play video games – something I’ve done since I was a kid.

Playing Video Games

Playing video game

The second chart shows me on one of those short breaks – playing video games. The differences between the two screenshots are marked. Note the scale on the blue graph; it peaked at just short of 30 while at work, and doesn’t get past 5 while playing games, in fact for the most part I don’t register a score at all (there’s a video game related reverse high score analogy hidden in there somewhere). What I thought was a useful distraction from regular work, was in fact just a good old fashioned distraction. When I return to work after this distraction it takes time for me to settle back into a more productive routine. I still play video games, I just don’t use them as a way of taking a break at work so often.



This third chart shows me at rest, you can call this meditating if you want. Taking time out, just being there, and nowness all work just as well for me. The point is that when I take time out like this, it clearly has a markedly different affect on me than regular work and/or taking a break in the way I used to. In this case you can see my heart rate variability is much smoother, and the scale on the blue graph is north of 300. You can see the ideal zone I pointed out in the first chart too – this time I’m right in the middle.

When I return to work from meditating, or taking time out, what I notice is I am able to carry this sense of coherence with me a while. I am more focused and I get stuff done. Sure – as I get more and more stuck into work and the general distractions around me – this condition deteriorates, and I can choose to go back and top it up from time to time if I want.

In my talk at Workplace Trends I’ll delve into the subject in more detail. I only have a few minutes to do so, which is partly why I thought it would be useful to share this information here and now – so you can look at it in your own time. This is one aspect of an emerging experiment – I’ve only been checking in with myself for the past 270 odd days, so everything still feels new and very uncertain at times. If you want to ask me anything about my experience so far – feel free to do so and I will do my best to respond usefully.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

3 thoughts on “Experiments in Wellbeing – Matters of the Heart”

  1. Hi Doug – thanks for another great post and for sharing this. I think what you are also referring to on this is known as ‘Mindfulness’ and noticing the here and now which for me helps to clear my head and re-energise my focus and thoughts. It is interesting to explore this in a Corporate context and for me will be at the fore of thinking in terms of Productivity and Wellness as organisations try to help employees make sense of the speed of Change. Interesting to see this unfold as more and more people turn to this technique to help support their work.

    1. Good to hear from you Lee. I agree – it’s interesting to see people exploring and sharing this stuff more openly, I too look forward to more unfolding.

      Cheers – Doug

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