Enso is a powerful tool for improving mental and social health. Its features are based on a robust body of scientific literature on the benefits of biofeedback, deep breathing and social connection.
The benefits of heartbeat biofeedback
“If you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations … you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings, and your self” — Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University Medical School
People who are aware of their heartbeat demonstrate greater emotional self-awareness, self-control and decision-making abilities, according to a 2013 Stanford University study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. Another study published in the journal Cortex, and summarized in The New Scientist, found that “people with a sharper ability to read others’ emotions were also the ones better at perceiving their [own] heartbeat.” These studies suggest that Enso’s heartbeat biofeedback improves our ability to understand ourselves and to empathize with others.
Heartbeat biofeedback helps us control our emotional and physiological responses to negative circumstances. A 2013 study by the Swedish Research Council found that heart rate biofeedback “provides an efficient way to down-regulate autonomic physiological reactions when encountering negative stimuli.” A follow-up study by the SRC discovered that “the learned ability [of heartbeat regulation] transfers to emotion challenging situations without biofeedback. This implies that participants can learn to cope with emotionally induced physiological reactions and to attenuate their deleterious impact on the homeostasis.” Enso helps us learn to calm ourselves during challenging situations, a skill that offers long-lasting mental and physical health benefits.
The benefits of guided deep breathing
“There is a very direct relationship between breath rate, mood state, and autonomic nervous system state,” according to Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
A large body of literature supports the benefits of deep breathing practices. According to a 2017 meta-study in the Frontiers in Psychology, “psychological studies have revealed breathing practice to be an effective non-pharmacological intervention for emotion enhancement…including a reduction in anxiety, depression, and stress”. Awareness and control of our breathing equips us to improve our wellbeing. Slow, deep breathing stimulates our parasympathetic, calming system. As our breathing slows, our heart rate slows and our bodies relax.
Enso’s lights glow brighter and dimmer to guide you to breathe slowly and deeply, resulting in approximately 4 breaths per minute. A study in the Journal of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback found that “the highest [heart rate variability] amplitudes were at 4 breaths per minute.” High heart rate variability is an indicator of higher cardiovascular fitness and stress resilience.. The specific breathing pattern Enso displays, known as Box Breathing, is used by US Navy Seals to relax.
The benefits of heartbeat sharing
“Being embedded in high-quality close relationships and feeling socially connected to the people in one’s life is associated with decreased risk for all-cause mortality as well as a range of disease morbidities,” according to researchers from Brigham Young University.
In our increasingly lonely digital world, Enso helps us to create closer personal relationships. The ability to feel the heartbeat of someone you love anytime, and from anywhere in the world, enhances social connection. A 2011 research study from Stanford University, Philips Research and Eindhoven University found that remote perception of another person’s heartbeat ”influences social behavior in a similar manner as traditional intimate signals such as gaze and interpersonal distance.” It’s well-documented that our heartbeat and breathing sync with that of a loved one when we are in their presence. Our bodies mirror the people we love, creating a heightened sense of connection and empathy. A follow-up study by Eindhoven University observed that “heartbeat sharing is primarily an intimate experience. Moreover, intimacy can be seen as equal to felt connectedness.” These research results indicate that sharing our heartbeat creates a tangible sense of connection and intimacy.
Awareness of our own heartbeat, coupled with the ability to share our heartbeat with others in real-time, strengthens our relationships. It can also help us diffuse and resolve conflicts. A 1993 study by John Gottman in the Journal of Family Psychology found a significant correlation between elevated heart rate during conflict and divorce; it suggested that individuals pause and self-soothe if they find that their “heart rates during the discussion become elevated by 10 beats per minute or more.” This suggests strong benefits of being aware of your heartbeat and of sharing it with others during crucial conversations. Enso’s real-time feedback can help people recognize when they need to take a break and calm down, thereby helping to strengthen our most important relationships.