Not too long ago, many western doctors held great skepticism about the connection between “emotions” and “physical health.”
“There’s nothing wrong with you — it’s all in your head,” was a common “diagnosis.”
Or: “You’ve just got a broken heart. You’re fine. You’ll get over it.”
Thanks to a deluge of new research, though, physicians can no longer deny the connection between emotional and physical health. The two are intrinsically linked.
So, if negative emotions like fear, anxiety and grief can contribute to obesity, hormone imbalances, cognitive decline, and other physical issues… then the question becomes: Is the reverse true as well?
Can positive emotions like care, appreciation and generosity actually make our bodies physically stronger and more resistant to disease?
Many experts — including the founder of HeartMath, a non-profit research group that studies emotional physiology and heart-brain interactions — say: “absolutely.”
“With every beat, the heart not only pumps blood, but also transmits complex patterns of neurological, hormonal, pressure and electromagnetic information to the brain and throughout the body,” says Doc Childre, founder of HeartMath.
And if you want to change your lifestyle, stop an unhealthy habit, or make a quantum leap with one of your personal goals, stop trying to “think” your way into it, Doc says. That won’t always work. Instead: operate from the heart.
“Since emotional processes can work faster than the mind, it takes a power stronger than the mind to bend perception, override emotional circuitry, and provide us with intuitive feeling instead. It takes the power of the heart.”
Your body wants to be healthy — that is its natural, baseline state — and your heart wants to help you to get there.
Here are 3 ways to start re-connecting with your heart to reduce stress, feel better, and allow your body to rest, digest, move, and function at full capacity.
(I’ve adapted these practices from the “Free Tools” section of the HeartMath website. You’ll find lots of other free exercises right over here.)
- Name your feelings.
Whatever you’re feeling right now? Say it out loud. (“Stressed!” “Overwhelmed!” “Nervous!” “Tired!” “Excited!”)
Do this all throughout the day as a little “emotional check-in.” (Great to do with kids — you can practice together!)
HeartMath researchers have found that refusing to acknowledge what you’re feeling is the emotional equivalent of clogging up a drain. It cranks up the stress hormones that can cause you to gain weight or sleep poorly, and makes you feel tired and crummy. Simply speaking your feelings out loud can help you unclog the drain.
- Ease it out.
If you’re feeling a negative emotion — and it’s interfering with your day — practice a technique the folks at HeartMath call “easing it out.”
Breathe deeply for a few minutes and feel your heart rate start to slow down as your body returns to its natural state. Calm. Present. No more “fight or flight” mode.
Then visualize the negative feeling departing your body, through your heart, out your chest, up, up, and away.
You’re not “forcing” it out. Just easing it out. Like gently inviting a friend to say “goodbye” at the end of a dinner party. No hatred. No anger. No violence. Just… “Thanks for visiting. Bye. Time to go!”
- Recall & coherence.
Place your hands over your heart. Breathe deeply. Press gently, almost as if you’re trying to softly “wake up” your heart from a nap. Close your eyes.
Recall a joyful moment, person, or place. Your favorite birthday party. Your first kiss. Snuggling with your child or a favorite pet.
Step back into that moment as if it’s happening again, now. Stay there for a few minutes, breathing naturally, without effort.
You may notice your heart rate slow down or accelerate slightly. Whatever happens? Let it happen.
Take a few more breaths. Open your eyes. Notice if you feel different, now, than when you began.
By “recalling” a beautiful memory — and aligning your heart rate and breath pattern with that memory — you have just used your heart to “re-set” your entire body. Right now, your body is flooded with positive neurotransmitters, stress hormones are decreasing, and all of your organs are functioning at a higher capacity.
All that… just because of a few new “cues” from your heart!
Pretty incredible, right?
Of course, not every health issue can be “cured” simply by breathing deeply, visualizing positive experiences, or focusing your attention on the heart.
But there’s no doubt about it: it’s a powerful place to start.
Your heart wants you to be well — and it’s a very good doctor.
Pay a visit to the heart-doc today.
It’s open 24/7, there’s no waiting room, and… bonus! No co-pay.
Do you need some heart-healing, today? Give one of those three practices a try.
Let your heart do its work.
~ Dr. Sue