When a person “feels” stress, the focus is usually on sensations felt in the body, like sweaty palms, racing heart and shallow breathing. Yet the reaction to stress in our bodies is separate from how we mentally experience stress, and it turns out the gap between the two has major implications for well-being. Previous work from the Center for Healthy Minds has shown that individuals whose subjective experience of stress aligns strongly with physiological changes in their body (i.e., have strong stress-heart rate coherence) tend to have higher psychological and physical well-being.
This project seeks to replicate these findings and address two important follow-up questions to expand this previous research: 1) Is awareness of the body (e.g., the ability to accurately report on one’s heart rate, termed ‘interoceptive accuracy’) necessary for strong coherence between physiology and subjective experience? and 2) Can mindfulness practice cultivate stronger stress-physiology coherence?