Heart rate and the paranormal

29th March 2020. Reading Time: 9 minutes General, Stuff paranormal investigators need to know, Paranormal Theories. 530 page views. 0 comments.

Many people use their heart rate as a form of evidence that they are experiencing something paranormal. Is a rise in heart rate an indication something paranormal is happening, or is it our bodies' reaction to our own fear or excitement. Does our heart rate help us to predict the future? There has been some controversial research on this topic that may just add to weight to 'trusting your gut'.

A large percentage of the world would have recently ditched their old hand and face watches for a 'smart watch'.  There has been a massive surge in this technology especially in the last 3 or 4 years.  I myself was always resistant to a smart watch.  The watch I wore I loved and had a sentimental value to me.  It wasn't until I had lost my watch that I realised I needed a new one.  After much deliberation, I bought an Apple Watch.  It instantly became an extension of my arm and made my life a lot easier - particularly at work.  Simple conveniences like locking and unlocking my laptop when I sit at my desk was a technology I didn't know I needed.  Not long after I got my watch, I found my old watch.  It was too late.  I was already too attached with my smart watch.  It is this convenience that we become addicted to.  In the past, at the beginning of an investigation I would always ask the guests to switch off their mobile phones.  Now I have to make sure I ask them to put their smart watches on aeroplane mode because they have become such a big part of the way we live.  They also act as great data loggers that keep track of how much exercise we do, how many steps we take, how many hours of sleep at night we are getting and what our heart rate is.  In fact if your heart rate has anomalies, it will notify you.  I have read stories online (I cannot vouch for their authenticity) where a person has said their smart watch heart rate notifications encouraged them to see a DR who then diagnosed them with certain heart conditions.  On paranormal investigations there is no denying there are circumstances where our heart rate rises.  Maybe it is just induced by fear or adrenaline, however some investigators actively take their heart rates during an investigation and use this as evidence that something paranormal is nearby.  There has been research to suggest that our heart rate may also help a person 'predict the future'.  So let's look into this research behind this to see if there is anything to it, or if it is just our bodies' reaction to our fear or excitement. 

What is a heart rate?

Very simply, a heart rate is the number of times that your heart beats per minute.  First you have what is called a 'resting heart rate'.  This is the time where your heart is pumping the least amount of blood because you are not active.  Generally this is around 60 beats per minute however it varies from person to person for a range of reasons.  Your age, general health, fitness levels, weight, if you smoke etc all have an influence on this number.  Some people have a naturally low heart rate, and others have a higher heart rate.  Between 60 - 100 is considered to be the normal range.  To take a pulse, you take 2 fingers and place them underneath your wrist.  You will feel a heartbeat with your fingers.  Count the number of beats in 15 seconds.  Multiply this by 4 and you have your total of beats per minute.  This is a very basic general overview of heart rate.  To understand it more detail as well as the different conditions that can affect your heart rate visit https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/ or any other trusted medical institutions.

Image Source: Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Does our heartbeat predict the future?

The HeartMath Institute has been involved with research projects our of different Universities to see if our heart rate changes as a response before something happens.  One study for example showed pictures or normal objects and then objects such as snakes etc.  It was reported that a person's heart rate changed 10 seconds before seeing this picture as if the person's body anticipated the photo.  These methods of course are open to much interpretation and met with skepticism so lets look into it more closely.

We are passionate and dedicated people, steadfast in our commitment to provide solutions for activating the heart of humanity. HeartMath Institute empowers individuals, families, groups and organizations to enhance their life experiences using tools that enable them to better recognize and access their intuitive insight and heart intelligence.

HeartMath Institute (About Us)

HeartMath Institute has worked with different Universities all over the world conducting research into the notion that our heart can tell our brain what to do.  It is even suggested that when we are in certain situations where we are flustered etc, that a higher heart rate can contribute to brain fogginess which can lead to making impulse decisions. 

One interesting study was that called: Electrophysiological Evidence of Intuition: Part 1. The Surprising Role of the Heart

You can read the full paper here: https://www.heartmath.org/assets/uploads/2015/01/intuition-part1.pdf

Using the concept discussed above, 26 participants were shown a random collection of photos with 30 being calm images and 15 being images to induce an emotional reaction.  By using an  electroencephalogram (EEG) and electrocardiogram (ECG), they were able to measure where and more importantly when the body reacted to the photos.  

It appears that the heart is involved in the processing and decoding of intuitive information. Once the prestimulus information is received in the psychophysiologic systems, it appears to be processed
in the same way as conventional sensory input. This study presents compelling evidence that the body’s perceptual apparatus is continuously scanning the future. 

Electrophysiological Evidence of Intuition: Part 1. The Surprising Role of the Heart

Heart rate and paranormal investigating

When a person is experiencing something believes is paranormal, the response is different and individual for each person.  I feel anxious and my heart feels like it beats faster.  Does this mean I am experiencing something paranormal or is it my body's natural response to something unknown?  Could it be the fight or flight mode?  When your brain feels like you are in some sort of danger where it feels that you are at risk or harm or attack, it goes into what is called 'hyper arousal' or 'acute stress response'. It is otherwise known as 'fight or flight mode'. There are a lot of cool things your body does with a lot of big words and medical terms, but all you need to know is that the brain releases a bunch of different hormones that prepare your body to either run for your life or to stay and confront and fight the threat. It was first described in the 1920's by Walter Cannon who was an American physiologist. What is interesting with this is that it is triggered when the brain feels you are at threat. It may be a very real physical threat or it could be imaginary. We all have different fears and different tolerance levels which is why this mode is extremely personal. What may set one person off, may not bother another person at all. It all comes down to our wonderful little brains. Some people will stand and confront the fear ready to fight and your body has the adrenaline ready with extra energy and strength to help you do so. Others will instinctively run away, and again they have the extra energy and lots of oxygen to help them do that. It all happens within a split second and every reacts differently.

Image source: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-fight-or-flight-response-2795194

As this is a personal psychological response, fight or flight can be triggered by phobias. If for example someone is afraid of heights, going to the top of a tall building and looking down could trigger this response. In the same way, if someone has a fear of the dark, being in a dark room could suddenly trigger a response. It is important to know our bodies' and how we react to things. It is also important to note that how we react to things also influences others. If you are at an investigation for example and say a gush of wind has caused a window to make a loud bang. Someone hears the bang and their response kicks in and they start freaking out, others could possibly follow suit. All of a sudden the gush of wind that has caused the window to banged can easily be misinterpreted as a massive paranormal experience that caused the whole team to run outside. You are dealing with the unknown and there are a lot of potential situations in an investigation that can easily trigger this response. Someone may be caught completely off guard and not know what is happening to them. To some, they may even feel like perhaps something paranormal is causing them to feel that way because again it is something unknown to them. It is just another thing to be mindful of because again, our brains are pretty powerful tools.

How do we establish if it is our brain responding to our heart or our heart responding to our brain?  In the same way the research suggests our heart is always scanning for the future, our brain is always scanning our surroundings to look for a threat.  One of the biggest problems that we all know happens with our brains is that it can 'overthink' things and look for patterns where they don't exist.  We then start seeing things that aren't there, feeling things that aren't there and feeling things they aren't there.  It can make us a people unreliable when it comes to paranormal experiences.  With that in mind, maybe there is something to listening to your heart.  HeartMath Institutes suggests:

Most of us have been taught in school that the heart is constantly responding to "orders" sent by the brain in the form of neural signals. However, it is not as commonly known that the heart actually sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart! Moreover, these heart signals have a significant effect on brain function—influencing emotional processing as well as higher cognitive faculties such as attention, perception, memory, and problem-solving. In other words, not only does the heart respond to the brain, but the brain continuously responds to the heart.


I myself am an over thinker.  I do know however when I am on an investigation I tend to go into an automatic mode where I am not thinking and do what is needed.  When I have a certain experience, I guess I know within myself if I think it was something more than the usual brain tricks.  It is something that doesn't happen to me very often which does make me wonder, in those occasions where I somehow know within myself it was something if it is my heart or 'intuition' taking charge ?'

So what do you think?  Do you listen to your heart?


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