Tool #2 Heart Coherence
For centuries, the heart has been considered the source of emotion, courage and wisdom. At the Institute of HeartMath (IHM) Research Center, they are exploring the physiological mechanisms by which the heart communicates with the brain, thereby influencing information processing, perceptions, emotions and health. They are asking questions such as:
- Why do people experience the feeling or sensation of love and other positive emotional states in the area of the heart and what are the physiological ramifications of these emotions?
- How do stress and different emotional states affect the autonomic nervous system, the hormonal and immune systems, the heart and brain?
Over the years Dr. Rollin McCraty and the researchers at the Institute of HeartMath have experimented with different psychological and physiological measures, but it was consistently heart rate variability, or heart rhythms, that stood out as the most dynamic and reflective of inner emotional states and stress. It became clear that negative emotions lead to increased disorder in the heart’s rhythms and in the autonomic nervous system, thereby adversely affecting the rest of the body. In contrast, positive emotions create increased harmony and coherence in heart rhythms and improve balance in the nervous system. The health implications are easy to understand: Disharmony in the nervous system leads to inefficiency and increased stress on the heart and other organs while harmonious rhythms are more efficient and less stressful to the body’s systems.
Our heart beats in a rhythm. Research at the Institute of HeartMath[i] found that when we are over-stimulated, overloaded, stressed, frustrated, worried or anxious–that rhythm becomes jagged and irregular. The more stressed we are, the more chaotic and incoherent the heart rhythm becomes (see top half of graph below). When our hearts are “incoherent,” everything gets out of whack, from our sleep patterns to our ability to function well at work.
So what can make our heart rhythm smooth out fast? Research shows that sincere positive feelings, like love, care, gratitude, appreciation, compassion or joy, smooth out our heart rhythm into a harmonious coherent pattern. (See bottom half of graph above). These nurturing feelings also reduce the stress hormone cortisol and increase DHEA (the vitality hormone) to help us sleep more soundly and wake up feeling more refreshed.
What’s interesting here is that both of the above graphs are of the same person feeling one way and then the other within a period of a few minutes. This smooth, coherent heart rhythm is the pattern that naturally occurs during deep, restful sleep. And what’s exciting for those of us who are sleep deprived is that we can learn to move intentionally into this smooth pattern.
But heart coherence can do more than help us sleep well. Positive emotions create increased harmony and coherence in heart rhythms and improve balance in the nervous system. The health implications are easy to understand: Disharmony in the nervous system leads to inefficiency and increased stress on the heart and other organs while.
The word “emotion” (E-motion) literally means “energy in motion.” It’s derived from the Latin verb meaning “to move.” While a “feeling”—a closely related concept—is any conscious experience of sensation, an emotion is a strong feeling. A feeling such as love, joy, sorrow, or anger literally moves us. Big changes occur in our bodies when we are experiencing strong emotions and they move us to interact with others.
In their book, The HeartMath Solution, authors Doc Childre and Howard Martin say, “Emotions serve as carrier waves for the entire spectrum of feelings. When our hearts are in a state of coherence, we more easily experience feelings such as love, care, appreciation, and kindness. On the other hand, feelings such as irritation, anger, hurt, and envy are more likely to occur when the head and heart are out of alignment. Our emotional experiences become imprinted in our brain cells and memory, where they form patterns that influence our behavior.”
How You Can Use the Simple Heart-Coherence Tool to Reduce Stress and Improve Health
Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, and all four branches of the U.S. Military, are now using HeartMath techniques to teach employees how to become more mentally and emotionally balanced, and provide for individual and organizational transformation. In addition, educators have found that school children can better manage their behavior, and improve their ability to absorb academic information by using the techniques pioneered by Doc Childre and Rollin McCraty at the Institute of HeartMath.
We’ve all heard about the many benefits of meditation. It can calm the mind and body, release tension and reduce the negative effects of stress. Meditation also helps us gain more inner balance and peace. More medical professionals are recommending meditation to patients as a way to decompress and relieve stress. A 2004 Center for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that 19 million people in the United States practice some form of meditation. Even though many of us know the benefits of meditation, we don’t always take time to do it. I’ve found that I can use the quick Heart-Coherence Tool to reduce stress even when I’m too busy to take time to relax.
You can use the Quick Coherence Technique to bring your heart rhythms into coherence and enable your brain to synchronize with your heart’s coherent rhythm. You can start by learning how to shift into a heart-focused, positive emotional state with three simple steps. Create a coherent state in about a minute with the simple, but powerful steps of the Quick Coherence® Technique. Using the power of your heart to balance thoughts and emotions, you can achieve energy, mental clarity and feel better fast, no matter where you are. Use Quick Coherence especially when you begin feeling a draining emotion such as frustration, irritation, anxiety or anger. QC will allow you to Find a feeling of ease and inner harmony that’s reflected in more balanced heart rhythms, facilitating brain function and more access to higher intelligence.
The Quick Coherence® Technique helps you create a coherent state, offering access to your heart’s intelligence. It uses the power of your heart to balance thoughts and emotions, helping you to achieve a neutral, poised state for clear thinking. It is a powerful technique that connects you with your energetic heart zone to help you release stress, balance your emotions and feel better fast. I’ve found that the Quick Coherence® Technique is easy to learn, has solid science to back up its value, and is a very effective tool for reducing stress in your life.
There are three steps:
Step 1: Heart Focus. Focus your attention on the area around your heart, the area in the center of your chest. The first couple of times you try it, place your hand over the center of your chest to help keep your attention in the heart area.
Step 2: Heart Breathing. Breathe deeply but normally and feel as if your breath is coming in and going out through your heart area. As you inhale, feel as if your breath is flowing in through the heart, and as you exhale, feel it leaving through this area. Breathe slowly and casually, a little deeper than normal. Continue breathing with ease until you find a natural inner rhythm that feels good to you.
Step 3: Heart Feeling. As you maintain your heart focus and heart breathing, activate a positive feeling. Recall a positive feeling, a time when you felt good inside, and try to re-experience the feeling. It may be a memory of your family or your children when they were young. One of the easiest ways to generate a positive, heart-based feeling is to remember a special place you’ve been or the love you feel for a close friend or family member or treasured pet. This is the most important step.
Quick Coherence® is especially useful when you start to feel a draining emotion such as frustration, irritation, anxiety or stress. Using Quick Coherence at the onset of less intense negative emotions can keep them from escalating into something worse. This technique is especially useful after you’ve had an emotional blowup to bring yourself back into balance quickly.
You can do the Quick Coherence® Technique anytime, anywhere and no one will know you’re doing it. In less than a minute, it creates positive changes in your heart rhythms, sending powerful signals to the brain that can improve how you’re feeling. Apply this one-minute technique first thing in the morning, before or during phone calls or meetings, in the middle of a difficult conversation, when you feel overwhelmed or pressed for time, or anytime you simply want to practice increasing your coherence. You can also use Quick Coherence whenever you need more coordination, speed and fluidity in your reactions.
I’ve found that this is a deceptively simple technique. Like many of you will learn, it seems so easy even a child could do it. It is very effective for children as well as adults. But don’t be fooled by its simplicity. It produces amazing results. Try it on for size and see how it fits you. If you find you’d like to learn other, related techniques for reducing stress you can learn more by visiting the Institute of HeartMath website.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Do you remember the joke about the guy in New York who is stopped on the street with the question, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer, of course, is “practice, practice, practice.” Well, I don’t think I’ll ever become a great musician and open at Carnegie Hall to a packed house. But I can practice heart coherence. It has become a well-used Energy Healing Tool.
When I’m having a bad day things often start to escalate. I may have slept poorly the night before and wake up with a headache. My wife is harried and I leave home feeling slightly irritable. The client I had been hurrying to meet cancels on me. You know the kind of day I mean. Each little imbalance seems to contribute to the next. By the end of the day, I’m about ready to explode and the next person I encounter gets the brunt of my frustration.
When I use the Quick Coherence® Technique, I’m able to head off these “days from hell” before they ever get started. When I first feel those “ticklings of tension,” as I call them, I whip out my Quick Coherence tool and I can feel my heart and soul relaxing. As we become more attuned to the rhythms, we begin to learn more about love and how to reduce stress in our relationships.
If you’d like more information on the other Energy Healing tools you can use to reduce stress go to www.MenAlive.com.