Focus on Your Heart to Improve Your Health and Much More! A Quick Meditation
Have you ever been faced with a tough decision, but you knew in your “heart” what the best answer was? Have you ever experienced “heart break” and felt actual physical pain in your chest? We commonly say things like “speak from the heart” or “have a heart to heart” with someone. What is the connection between our emotions (our metaphorical heart) and our physical heart? And what does it have to do with our brain and the way we think? The connection between these things is greater and more complex than you may imagine.
The Institute of Heart Math (IHM) founded on the research of Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman, Ph.D. set out to study this connection. They first looked at Electro Cardiograms (ECG) to see if there was a correlation between the physical heart and people’s emotional states. They indeed found that strong negative states such as fear, anger, anxiety, jealousy, and frustration did change the shape of the ECG. After analyzing their data more closely they found that the biggest most clear indicator of someone’s emotional state was the pattern of the heart’s rhythm.
The heart rate changes with every beat. By measuring and graphing these beat to beat changes (called heart rate variability) it accurately reflects emotional states. Positive states such as sincere love, compassion, gratitude create a smooth and ordered heart rhythm pattern called a “coherent wave”. Negative states, which are most closely related to stress, cause a jagged disordered pattern called an “incoherent wave”.
To take this one step further, research from the IHM has also found that communication between the heart and the brain is a two way street. Each organ is continuously influencing the other’s function. The heart communicates with the brain in 4 major ways: neurologically (nerve impulses), biophysically (pulse waves), biochemically (hormones), and energetically (electro-magnetic field). The brain responds to the heart when it is in a “coherent” state. It actually modifies cortical function and performance. To put it more simply, we think more coherently when our heart rate variability pattern is coherent. The opposite is also true. When our heart pattern is incoherent, our brain function is more incoherent.
The heart also generates the strongest electro-magnetic field of any part of the body. While the brain’s electro-magnetic field extends a few inches, that of the heart extends as much as 10 feet, maybe more. Research from the IHM has shown that we are influenced by the field of other people. You have probably experienced this yourself in the presence of people who just seem to have a “good vibe”. Or when you know you should stay clear of someone because they don’t “feel” right. Our own heart rhythm is influenced by the electromagnetic field and the beat to beat rhythm of those around us. We can even sync up with someone else’s rhythm.
The best news is that we can easily influence the beat to beat rhythm of our heart to be more coherent with a simple three step process put forth by the IHM called “Quick Coherence”. It’s kind of like a mini meditation break. Do this whenever you are feeling stressed, worried or just a little off.
Quick Coherence Heart-Centered Meditation
- Heart Focus: Focus your attention on the area of your heart. If it helps, place your hand over your heart.
Heart Breathing: As you focus on your heart, imagine your breath flowing in and out. Breathe slowly (5 or 6 counts in and out) until your breath feels balanced.
- Heart Feeling: As you continue to breathe slowly in and out from the heart, recall a positive feeling and try to re-experience it. It’s important to concentrate on the feeling rather than the details of the memory. It could be the feeling of true caring you have for a loved one or pet, or it could be the feeling you have in a favorite place, or anything that helps you.
- Continue this for a minute or two or as long as you like. The more often you practice this the more you train your heart and brain to be in a coherent state with each other, improving clarity of thought, hormones related to stress, and possibly the lives of those around you.
To learn more about the relationship between the heart, the brain and stress go to:
or read “Transforming Stress” by Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman, Ph.D.