Introducing the heart as one of the key players in stress-reduction
Let’s start with some questions. 1) Where in your body do you feel stress? 2) Where in your body do you feel fear? 3) Where in your body to you feel love and gratitude? Did any of your answers include the heart? Invariably when I ask my clients these questions, they describe tightness, or conversely warmth and expansiveness in their chest. I think most people would consider the heart their emotional center. The researchers at the Institute of Heartmath have found extensive scientific evidence for this intuitive truth. In an effort to address the stress epidemic and its undeniable impact on health and well-being, Heartmath has researched the role of the heart as a key player in stress-reduction.
As you may have noticed, negative emotions like fear, worry, anger, frustration can cause depletion and worsen your IBS symptoms. Conversely, when you experience positive emotions like happiness, gratitude, peace, and love, you feel expanded and renewed. Symptoms improve. The folks at Heartmath consider our ability to regulate difficult emotions the key to reprogramming, body-depleting, stress patterns. By consciously shifting our heart’s emotional center, we can transform the chronic state of depletion to one of renewed health and well-being. This includes improved vitality and mood, cognitive clarity, decreased pain and improved relationships.
It sounds suspiciously like a cure all but the key is in our heart rate variability or HRV. This is the beat to beat rythym of our heart. When we are healthy and vital, our HRV should look like a smooth and regular wave pattern. This is called Coherence. It means that our bodies are working efficiently as a synergistic whole. Because of stress or disease, most people exhibit an erratic or weak HRV, low coherence. There is strong evidence to suggest that a coherent HRV is highly correlated with physical and emotional well-being.
The best part of all this HRV/coherence stuff, is that you can do it on your own. Anywhere. It does not require anything but a willingness to try. By replacing negative emotions with positive ones while focusing on the heart for as little as 30 seconds, we can change our attitudes, and ability to think clearly and make good decisions. By practicing for longer periods of time, 15 minutes or more daily, we can actually change our baseline of depletion, improve health and performance, decrease pain and reduce risk factors for disease and mental disorders. I can tell you from using these practices on myself and my clients, it’s a simple but very powerful tool. It takes practice and time for our bodies to readjust to the new normal. Be patient. Be kind. Good luck!