emWave Personal Stress Reliever

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Would you believe me if I told you that a plastic device the size of a deck of cards could improve your life? The folks at HeartMath claim that this is possible with their emWave personal stress reliever unit. The emWave is a hardware version of their emWavePC software product that uses a form of biofeedback to help you learn to breath and think your stress away. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m all for finding a way to alleviate some of my day to day stress.

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Package Contents

emWave Personal Stress Reliever Unit
Ear Sensor
Carrying Case
Battery Re-charger (AC Adapter)
Coherence Coach CD
emWave Owners Manual
Quick Start Guide
Jump Start Card

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The emWave module is 3.37 x 2.25 x .7in (85 x 55 x 14mm) and weighs in at 2 ounces. It’s very small and light weight and can easily fit into a pocket, purse or bag. It even comes with a small case that has a belt clip.

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Available in Silver or Blue, the unit is constructed of plastic with one multifunction sensor button on the top (the Red oval) and a grouping of status LEDs above it. The leftmost LED is the pulse indicator. The middle row of LEDs is the heart action strip. The rightmost LED is the coherence level indicator. More on coherence in a second.

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The AC adapter port and connector for the ear sensor are located along the Left edge of the device.

First of all, let me tell you what the emWave claims to do. In a nutshell, it monitor the intervals between heart beats. This is called heart rate variability (HRV). The beat-to-beat changes are what creates your heart rhythm pattern. When a person is stressed, their heart rhythm pattern becomes irregular and incoherent. This can affect health, brain function, performance and overall sense of well being. When you are not stressed and are feeling great, you’re in a coherent state. The emWave helps you to quickly and easily reach a state of high coherence. Coherence is a highly efficient physiological state in which the nervous system, cardiovascular system, hormonal and immune systems are all working in harmony. So, the more coherence you have, the less stress you have. Sounds logical right? But how can a little block of plastic do all that?

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First of all, you have to charge the batteries by plugging in the AC adapter (the emWave can run for approximately 6hrs on one charge). Once the batteries are charged, you press the left side of the multifunction button to turn on the emWave. You’ll then hear a tone and the status LEDs will light up. The next step is to use either the ear sensor or the thumb sensor to have the emWave monitor your heart rhythm. I find that using the thumb sensor is easier and more convenient than the ear clip. All you have to do is just press your thumb over the button. You don’t have to press really hard or anything, just firmly. You’ll know you are doing it correctly when the leftmost LED starts blinking in the rhythm of your heart beat. If it isn’t recording correctly, the LED will turn Red. When the heart rate LED starts blinking steadily, the middle row of LEDs will start to run back and forth across the heart action strip. As the LEDs travel to the right, you breath in. Then when they flow to the left, you breath out. As you do this over and over, the rightmost LED will turn from Red, to Blue, and finally to Green. Green means you have reached the highest level of coherence. The longer you can keep the LED at Green, the more relaxed you should be.

Deep breathing really isn’t anything new, it’s long been suggested as a way to calm frazzled nerves. The instructions for the emWave go a step further than just helping you breath though. While you breath, you’re supposed to focus on your heart (the center of your chest) and think of your breaths flowing in and out of your heart. You’re also supposed to concentrate on positive feelings by thinking about a favorite place, person or event. They claim that shifting from negative feelings to positive ones while using the emWave is an important step in relieving your stress.

Included with the device is a CD with Coherence Coach software for the PC and Mac. This software gives you another method to help with breathing by using animations and new age style music.

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The breathing pacer animation shows a ball that travels up and down through a sine wave.

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There are several other animations and audio tracks that can help too.

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This may sound like a lot of hocus pocus, but the people that created this device have 15yrs of research to back it up. They have had their research published in journals such as Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, American Journal of Cardiology, Stress Medicine, and the Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Some of their clients include BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Stanford Business School, Cisco Systems, University of North Carolina Hospitals, Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, Sutter Health, Shell, DuPont, Sony, Redken, and Liz Claiborne.

See it in action…

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Click on image to play the QuickTime video (1min 51sec, 3.6mb). The video is encoded in the H.264 codec. You will need the latest version of Quicktime to view it. VLC is another free viewer.

I found the emWave to be very easy to use and within a few seconds, I was able to turn the coherence indicator from Red to Blue, to Green. If you watch the video clip, you can also see that in the middle of the session, the indicator turns Red again. This is because I started breathing rapidly to see what would happen. I then began trying to relax again and the indicator quickly turned Blue and then Green. Ask you keep the indicator Blue or Green, bars will start to accumulate on the left side of the Heart Strip. This turns relaxing almost into a game as you see how long you can keep collecting the bars. If you don’t relax and the indicator goes back to Red, the bars will start to disappear.

Did this product help me feel less stressed? Yes, it really did. I should tell you, that I’ve practiced deep breathing to help with stress *before* I ever heard of the emWave. So, being able to calm myself down tends to come easy to me. That said, I like all the visual indicators that the emWave possesses. Seeing that Green LED has a positive effect that just closing your eyes and breathing deeply does not. On the other hand, I can’t see myself pulling the emWave out of my gear bag at work and using it during the day when everyday work stresses start to take a toll on my sanity. I’m more likely to revert back to my old method of closing my eyes and taking a few deep breaths. This is mostly true because no hardware is required, I can do it anywhere, nosy people won’t ask me what the heck I’m doing and I don’t have to worry about batteries running low. So even though I can say that the emWave does help, I think it might be better suited for someone that doesn’t already have their own established method of de-stressing. For those people, the emWave could be come a valuable tool.


Product Information

  • Companion software application requires Windows XP or Mac OS X
  • Very easy to use
  • Really helps a person to quickly destress
  • Portable
  • Expensive

10 thoughts on “emWave Personal Stress Reliever”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. In the spirit of disclosure, I am a friend of HeartMath. That’s because I was lucky enough to get the PC Based Freeze Framer a long time back. My personal experience with the emWave is that it provides an untethered exerience I can use anywhere to help me stay calm and cool. For example, I was Skyping the other day and we were going over a step by step discussion of business issues, I had my ear sensor hooked up and was having fun listening to the pleasant beeps as I stacked up bars. Next topic, Finances!

    It seemed like almost the very minute the subject moved to finances I was greated with the squalking sound telling me I was loosing it. The best part of the story for me, is the instant I heard the sound, I corrected. The ability to make a correction right in the middle of it all is my most cherished prize. I’ve been thinking I’ve been correcting when I’m in a meeting or something. The emWave gives me feedback before I’m even aware of it.

    My next funnest thing is to sit with my emWave (usually the cat jumps in my lap) and simply relax and refresh. I’m completely satifisfied with the validity of the science behind this technology, I ought to know. I spent a lot of money to have the science examined by real scientists before I introduced the HeartMath tools to my corporation. Look at the results of the HM study my company performed LINK TO STUDY RESULTS

    If the URL is wrong, I apologize, I’m not much of a “poster” but when I found out about the emWave review, I couldn’t resist sharing.


  3. I have owned my emWave now for almost 5 months. It is fun and easy to use – everywhere I go people want to try it.

    Last week my 23 year old son dropped his cell phone in water and he got very upset. He sat down in the living room and noticed my emWave sitting on the coffee table. He picked it up, turned it on and began to focus on his breathing. He tracked how he was doing by watching for the green light.

    In just a few minutes he was calm and ready to jump back into his day. That is the best part about the emWave, it gives you a choice. You don’t have to stay unhappy or be stressed. That is why I use it when I am at work; it reduces my stress so when I go home I am in a much better mood. It is worth every penny I paid for it and my son has decided he wants one too!

  4. Great review. This sounds like it would be very helpful for my mom. Not too complicated and small enough to carry in her purse. I’m putting this on my holiday list. Thanks for the info!


  5. I think the reviewer is wrong. I have one of these, and even though I have my own ways of relieving stress like she does, I use this as a ‘reality check’. When u r under stress you are generally the last to know about it.

    When it’s tougher for me to get to, or stay in the ‘green’ on the emwave I know I need to take special care,, refocus my efforts, take a proper break etc.

    The emwave is like my little buddy; it always tells me the truth, whether I like it or not, and that’s priceless.

  6. I don’t understand why people on this site find the emwave so novel. It is a metronome that shows you a light when your breathing with the metronome. You can get the exact same results by using your watch for slow breathing and focusing on gratitude. The technology is about as good as those head-to-head football games from the early 80’s. This company must have some good PR or something because they are selling a metronome for $200 and claiming they invented the notion that appreciation is good for the heart. Buddha told us that already. I guess if you don’t know that slow breathing and appreciation are good for you then the emwave may be an education. Actually since most people probably don’t know that, it may be worth the 200 for that alone….or you can just read this post. Superzone

    In doing some more research I find it very interesting that only one person reported being a “friend of Heartmath” since “John Bishop” is a “heartmath trainer” and did not disclose this. I wonder how these others are affiliated with heartmath. It is also very odd that “the institute of heartmath” is a non-profit that does research almost solely with the money making heartmath products. Some interesting links:


    http://www.dansdata.com/danletters178.htm (go down to the “try these guys” heading- it is very funny)



  7. For over 30 years I experienced several life threatening chronic illnesses. Through the Grace of God I was lead to several people and organizations that aided me in understanding, positively dealing with and transforming these illnesses. For the past few years I have devoted my life to sharing what I have learned with others. The two most impactful organizations I was lead to are The Institute of HeartMath (http://www.emotionalmastery.com).

    The American Institute of Stress and The Centers for Disease Control have both reported that up to 90% of all illnesses are due to stress. I was lead to The Institute of HeartMath in 1997 and discovered that all of my illnesses were due to stress I had been experiencing in my life. Through learning and practicing HeartMath’s tools and technologies, I am able to prevent, manage and reverse the effects of stress, in-the-moment, achieve better health, more energy, improved mental and emotional clarity, and improved performance and relationships. HeartMath’s tools and technologies are scientifically substantiated; they literally saved my life.

  8. I have a counseling practice in northern Vermont, and need some assurance that HeartMath products are valid and reliable. The company claims wonderful successes. Currently, I’m using WisdomQuest with favorable results. If HeartMath’s products are what the’re advertised to be, I’d consider utilizing them.

    Thanks…Joe Mac…Northern Vermont

  9. Francois Deschamps

    The emwave DOES NOT show you green light when you breathe with the metronome… You can breathe differently and still get a green light.
    The light measures your HEART RYTHM, not the way you breathe.
    The breathing is a WAY, the HRV is the result.
    You cannot control your heart directly. The emwave MEASURES your heart so you have a feedback.
    Nothing revolutionary but nothing bogus.
    It just does what it says and works.

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