Is feeling good a priority for you? If not, it should be — it goes beyond just increasing your quality of life. Your happiness contributes to a happier world.
As we go about our daily lives, we often unconsciously put our own mental well-being on the back burner as other “priorities” pop up.
We allow outside influences to affect how we feel, unaware that we have the power to learn how to self-regulate our emotions in a way that contributes to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
It is now widely known that stress and anxiety have a negative effect on the body. The same is true on the other end — feeling good improves our mental and physical well-being. The data about the positive effect of consciously cultivating positive emotions and HOW to cultivate those positive emotions on a more consistent basis is often lost amidst the noise.
The HeartMath Institute is a non-profit research organization that studies the science of the connection between the brain and the heart. Through its scientific findings, it provides the knowledge and tools that help people reduce stress and cultivate regenerative emotions that result in increased resilience and greater well-being.
Teaching ourselves how to consistently come from a space of the heart results in more compassion for ourselves, increased performance, and more meaningful and loving interactions with others.
During this time, the HeartMath Institute is offering free access to its HeartMath Experience course that outlines some of their main findings on the connection between the brain and the heart and practical ways to apply these to improve our well-being.
In this article series, I offer a summary of the most fascinating points of the video course in short bullet points. In a final article I will summarize all of the simple exercises that HeartMath suggests we can do in order to consciously improve our well-being through upleveling our emotions.
THE BRAIN IN THE HEART: IT’S ELECTRIC!
The heart has its own independent nervous system. It communicates with the brain via electrical signals.
The heart actually sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart.
The heart is an electrical organ, producing by far the strongest source of rhythmic bioelectricity. The electrical energy that the heart produces creates a magnetic field surrounding the body that extends beyond the skin. With our current technology, this field is measurable about 3 ft outside our bodies.
Magnetic fields contain information. Our nervous system is sensitive to this information and uses it to translate the output from our outer world into our physical and psychological systems.
We imprint our own magnetic fields by what we are feeling. Our magnetic fields exchange information and thus affect one another.
As it relates to our emotional and mental clarity, the heart sends signals to the amygdala, the emotional processing center in the brain. From there, the thalamus synchronizes our cortical functions, affecting the higher-decision making centers of the brain that are responsible for mental focus.
COHERENCE: ALIGNING THE BRAIN AND THE HEART
The term coherence refers to an alignment between the heart, mind, and our emotions. It means that the major body systems are synchronized and thus function in their optimal high-performance state.
The full scientific term is psychophysiological coherence — a coherence on both the physical and psychological levels.
Coherence can be measured using Heart Rate Variability (HRV) — the beat to beat changes in heart rhythm. Greater coherence means that the body’s subsystems are working together in an efficient and harmonious manner.
When we are in a coherent state, our bodies are regenerated as less energy is wasted. Respiration, digestion, and hormonal function all sync up. We exhibit greater emotional stability, an increased ability to focus, sharper memory, and better reaction times and coordination. We are better able to navigate external pressures and less susceptible to stress because our internal systems are in sync.
The electric signals from the heart affect the autonomic nervous system which controls 90% of the body’s involuntary functions — from hormonal, digestion, immune response, to how well we sleep. When these systems are in coherence, we feel more clarity and overall wellness.
UPLIFTING OURSELVES TO MORE COHERENT STATES
Coherence is triggered by uplifting emotions such as those associated with the qualities of the heart — love, care, kindness, appreciation, and compassion. These emotions create a smooth and ordered heart rate variability pattern.
Stressful emotions create lower coherence, shutting down our higher-order thinking capacities and clouding our judgment and ability to make good choices.
We can train ourselves to sustain regenerative emotions and thus to open up higher brain functions. (Thank you neuroplasticity!)
This graph is a visual representation of coherence. Through measuring heart rate variability, we can see how positive emotions result in coherence and how negative emotions result in incoherence.
Here’s what happens to our respiration, heart rate variability, and blood pressure rhythm when we put ourselves in a state of coherence by choosing to focus on our heart and consciously generating positive emotions.
Feeling good works wonder on all levels! So today — do at least one thing that makes you feel happy to be alive and that makes you forget to check your phone. It’s good for you!
Stay tuned for additional summaries of insights from HeartMath’s insightful video course.
Next up: A Simple Science-Based Tool to Help You Shift From Negative to Positive Emotions