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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Heart Math

When referring to strong emotions, people are often prone to reference their heart. This is nothing new; throughout various historic cultures the heart has been associated with spiritual influx, wisdom, and emotions as experienced physiologically. Currently, scientific research has been diligently exploring the role of the human heart in the generation of emotional experience, and has found that our physiological heart indeed is linked to and stimulates our emotional “heart.” Your brain and body work together to produce thoughts, perceptions, and emotions; this includes your heart. Research in the budding field of neuro-cardiology has discovered that the heart plays a central role in emotional perception because of cardiac afferent signals generating rhythmic patterns within the body, affecting brain functions which in turn affect cognition and emotional processing. Bearing this in mind, the HeartMath Institute has created heart-centered techniques to lovingly shift emotional consciousness.

HeartMath techniques shift a person’s attention to focus on the area of the heart, while also shifting their intention to the self-induction of positive emotion; most commonly they will focus on the emotion of Appreciation. Appreciation has been found to be “one of the most concrete and easiest of the positive emotions for individuals to self-induce and sustain for longer periods.” By shifting the person’s attention, heart rhythm coherence is increased resulting in a pattern change for the afferent cardiac information which is processed by the emotional and cognitive centers in the brain. The newly organized afferent pattern, paired with positive emotion, naturally conditions the body to correlate the positive emotion with the calmer physiological state. A reciprocal relationship between the emotional and the physical occurs, where the positive emotional state may produce the aforementioned physical state, and the physical experience may induce the positive emotional experience.

Through employing HeartMath techniques, positive emotion-focused heart presence gives individuals the freedom to replace stressful thoughts and feelings with a positively charged reaction in the moment the shift is needed rather than waiting for the long-term process of therapy to take hold. It has also been found that this physical-emotional resonance leads to elevated levels of effective communication, steady decision making, as well as more creativity and improved problem solving. Another lasting effect, if the individual is able to regulate positive mood production, is the ability to uplift them on a regular basis.

One technique which may aid in the positive transformation process is the HeartMath strategy of Freeze-Frame. There are five steps in Freeze-Frame. First, take time out to temporarily disengage from your thoughts and feelings, working to release from stress. Second, shift your focus from your thoughts and feelings to the area of your heart. Once, you are heart-centered, allow your focus to drift to your breath and visualize your breath coming in through your heart, out through your solar plexus. Third, make a concerted effort to induce a positive feeling. Fourth, rely on your internal wisdom to guide you toward an effective attitude that will balance and distress you. Finally, quietly sense any change in perception or emotions, and hold on to it for as long as you are able.

The Freeze-Frame exercise reminds me of a Taoist exercise called the Inner Smile used to induce positive feelings toward yourself and others by taking an external smile into yourself through your heart chakra, down to your root chakra, and circulating the energy back through your system through breath. Many exercises in the Tao which are used to circulate energy for a healing effect, bring energy into or in through the heart chakra because hatred, inability to forgive, and self-loathing are all thought to deplete you Jing energy (life force). So, perhaps neuro-cardiology is just now catching onto what ancient eastern traditions have known for years.

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