- Positive emotions such as love generate a harmonious pattern in the heart’s rhythm, leading to coherence and greater emotional regulation.
- The heart's energy is said to reach about three feet outside of the physical body.
- It's possible to train the heart using positive emotions so the brain more consistently releases chemicals that support healing and well-being.
The heart is responsible for pumping blood to the entire circulatory system so that organs, tissues, and cells receive nutrients and oxygen and waste, such as carbon dioxide, is eliminated. Research is proving the heart may be as intricate as the brain, referred to as "the little brain." The heart-brain actually sends more communication to the head-brain than the other way around.
The heart beats before the brain forms. When the brain is dead, the heart continues to beat so long as it has oxygen. In fact, the heart has 40,000 neurons and the ability to process, learn, and remember. It also has its own emotions. Thanks to the field of neuro-cardiology, we are learning more about the intuitive nature of the heart and how we can apply this information to the relationship we have with ourselves and others.
The Heartmath Institute has been leading research related to heart-brain coherence. According to Research Director Dr. Rollin McCraty, “Coherence is the state when the heart, mind, and emotions are in energetic alignment and cooperation. It is a state that builds resilience.” When the parasympathetic and the sympathetic system are out of sync from emotions such as anger, anxiety, or frustration, this produces an erratic rhythm or incoherent state. The brain receives this input which affects whether higher cognitive functions can be accessed to self-regulate.
Positive emotions such as compassion and love generate a harmonious pattern in the heart’s rhythm, leading to coherence and greater emotional regulation. When harmonious interactions exist among the body’s systems, this is referred to as physiological coherence. As this increases, so does the brain’s alpha activity which supports stress relief and creativity. This calmer yet focused state improves:
- Making better choices
- An expanded view of options
The upside is plentiful as to why we should increase our heart’s harmony. With an electrical component about 60 times greater and an electromagnetic energy field 5000 times greater than the brain’s, the heart has a significant influence on the body down to the cellular level. The brain’s rhythms along with the respiratory and blood pressure rhythms entrain with the heart’s rhythm. This is the optimal state for human functioning.
The heart's energy is said to reach about three feet outside of the physical body and can be detected in another person sitting nearby via an electrocardiogram (ECG). Can you bring to mind someone who, without even speaking a word, makes you feel light just by being in their presence? Have you ever been told, "You have such a positive energy about you"? The potential of how far our heart's electromagnetic energy field can reach continues to be studied as technology plays catch-up.
Additional benefits of heart-brain coherence include:
- Reduction in stress
- Adaptability to change
- Psychosocial well-being
- Higher cognitive capacity
- Performance improvement
- Mental Clarity/Emotional stability
- Access to intuition and creativity
- Regenerative process/Anti-aging
How Can We Increase Heart Coherence?
As the brain is able to be re-trained through neuroplasticity, so can the heart. In the same way, we build mental habits, we can develop new heart habits. Whatever the heart informs the brain, the brain responds accordingly. It takes changing what we have hard-wired in the communication exchange between the heart and the brain, and between the neurons in the heart, just like rewiring the communication between neurons in the brain.
If it has become the “norm” for the heart to feel chronic stress or anger, it is accustomed to communicating this to the brain. The brain triggers the body’s response in the form of stress hormones, constricted blood vessels, increased blood pressure, chronic inflammation, and basically makes the heart work harder. Putting the heart through constant emotional distress disrupts the body's balance and can lead to physical disease. As many have said, "Happiness is a choice," and so is sustainable joy.
Just as neuroplasticity is described as training the brain through learning, what if we trained our hearts using positive emotions so that the brain more consistently releases chemicals that support healing and well-being? By increasing awareness of what we are “feeding” the command center, we can be intentional about what we allow in, what we give permission to spread to the rest of the body, and even how we inspire others to feel around us.
Following are steps to stimulate positive emotions for greater heart-brain coherence:
- Bring focused attention to your heart. You can also place your hand(s) over it for a physical connection.
- Use Dr. Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 Relaxing Breath Technique. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, and exhale slowly with a wooshing sound for eight seconds. Repeat four times. This lowers the heart rate.
- Bring to mind something that makes you feel love, joy, or thankfulness. You can also create this in your imagination such as spending time with a child, a pet, or in spiritual presence.
- Amplify positive emotions that come forth such as amusement, hope, or inspiration. You can even give them happy or soothing colors. Allow a smile to form as you savor the moment.
- Visualize sending these feelings (aka, input) from your heart to your brain. Be as creative as you’d like, such as picturing them as healing light energy or shooting stars as your brain tingles.
- Expand to other areas of your body including cells and organs. Notice how they respond. Perhaps your cells are now vibrating with the energy of joy. I see my cells dancing!
If the preference is not to focus on controlled breathing or to bypass some of the steps above due to time, simply bringing up positive emotions that invoke calm through the heart-space will cause coherence. Studies show that a prayer of gratitude or “heartfelt love” also increases cardiac coherence. These are easy-to-execute interventions one can do any time anywhere.
As with any new practice, repetition is key to making it familiar to the brain as to the heart. Doing any variation of these exercises right before bedtime can lead to deeply restful and restorative sleep as it clears out concerns. Be purposeful about what your final thoughts are before you hit the sack as they will flow right into sleep.
Applying Cardiac Coherence in Other Areas
Heart coherence training has permeated multiple industries from medical and corporate to law enforcement and educational environments. Coherency enables the ability to pick up data in another’s heart, beyond what the person has shared verbally. For example, a patient may be holding back fears. When the physician’s heart is already in a state of tranquility, this enables the doctor to be present and viscerally connected to respond with patient-centered insights.
The patient's heart can also be influenced to feel calm just by this transfer of energy which can trigger an alpha state supporting resilience, optimism, and the ability to see options. When patients feel understood by a doctor's intuition, stemming from the heart-brain, innately the patient's level of trust and comfort increases, induced by oxytocin (the love hormone) released by the head-brain.
Can a Person’s Negative Heart Energy Affect Mine?
When we are in a highly coherent state, we are less likely to be affected by another’s negativity. We are able to remain emotionally composed and adaptable to whatever is going on in the external world. In fact, we can disrupt the incoherence in another person, who is much more susceptible to external influences. We can even enter a room and sway the hearts and brain waves around us.
When you feel light and joyful, take notice of how you got there. If you are in the company of another, allow yourself to wonder if it is your heart or theirs that caused that to happen. The next time you encounter others, practice using your heart's electromagnetic energy field to redirect their emotions to the upside. In what ways can you put to good use your most powerfully attracting organ?
Matcha.com. (2019, January 15). Dr. Weil explains how to do his 4-7-8 breathing technique. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8fjYPC-k2k&ab_channel=Matcha.com
McCraty, Rollin. (2003). The Energetic Heart: Bioelectromagnetic Interactions Within and Between People. The Neuropsychotherapist. 6. 22-43. 10.12744/tnpt(6)022-043.
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