As I started to write this article a few words from a song kept running through my head "all you need is love..." This month we will be bombarded with ads for cards and gifts and urgings to show others that we love them. Many religions and traditions exhort us to "love one another," to care about others and to appreciate the gifts of life. In both advertising and tradition the heart is the symbol of love.
Recent scientific discoveries have found that the heart is actually involved in emotional processing. Messages are sent both ways between brain and heart. The new science of called Neurocardiology has shown that the heart is actually a sensory organ and a sophisticated encoding and processing center. The heart can learn, remember and even make decisions independent of the brain.
The emotional processing of the heart operates much more quickly than the linear reasoning process of the mind. This emotional processing can bias or color the cognitive processes. Stress caused by unmanaged emotions can affect the entire body.
The research conducted at the Institute of HeartMath has consistently demonstrated that positive emotions such as love and appreciation are the key to optimal functioning. The use of heart rate variability (HRV) measurement equipment provides information on the beat-to-beat changes in heart rate. HRV is very sensitive to changes in emotional state. When people think angry, frustrated, or anxious thoughts an erratic and disordered pattern is shown.
When people experience positive emotions like appreciation, love or compassion a much more ordered or coherent pattern is displayed. Obviously it is much healthier for the heart and body to have a coherent heart rate. Fortunately there are easy to learn techniques that can be put into use during stressful times that can help change our habitual responses to stress.
Simply remembering to feel appreciation for short periods of time every day can be a first step. The holidays shouldn't be the only time we remember to express our love for others. Tapping into that "loving feeling" can be good for our hearts as well as for our relationships.
Lorna Minewiser, Ph.D has been helping people reduce their stress for more than 15 years. She offers individual and group coaching, workshops, CDs, e-books and Stress Reduction and Relaxation kits.