Affective Instability in Daily Life Is Predicted by Resting Heart Rate Variability
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Previous research has shown that being affectively unstable is an indicator of several forms of psychological maladjustment. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying affective instability. Our research aims to examine the possibility that being prone to extreme fluctuations in one’s feelings is related to maladaptive emotion regulation. We investigated this hypothesis by relating affective instability, assessed in daily life using the experience sampling method, to self-reported emotion regulation strategies and to parasympathetically mediated heart rate variability (HRV), a physiological indicator of emotion regulation capacity. Results showed that HRV was negatively related to instability of positive affect (as measured by mean square successive differences), indicating that individuals with lower parasympathetic tone are emotionally less stable, particularly for positive affect.