Free Press Article – February 24, 2012

Dr. Paula King

February is heart month. It’s about hearts and flowers for your loved one, and about a focus on heart health, and it is the inspiration for these thoughts about heart-felt health.

Did you know your heart has a little nervous system and a little brain of its own? Did you know that your heart sends more messages to your brain than your brain sends to your heart? Did you know that your heart is a primary player in the workings of your autonomic nervous system?

While you probably answered NO to these questions, because most people do not know about the influence of the heart on their brain and nervous system, I bet you DO KNOW that the heart is the seat of emotion. We’ve all said, heard and FELT things such as: ”My heart is full of joy,” “My heart is broken,” “My heart is open,” “My heart is sad,” and “My heart is so happy I could burst.”

So why is this information important? It is because you can learn to harness the influence of the heart to help you not only deal with negative stress and emotions, but also to learn how to create a state of inner coherence between the heart, the brain and the nervous system thereby enhancing your health, performance and well being.

A fun, engaging way to learn to create coherence is by using Heart Math® biofeedback technology. Coherence, which is the synchronization between the heart, brain and nervous system, has been shown to be a cornerstone of optimal health. Heart Math® biofeedback technology determines the presence of coherence by assessing Heart Rate Variability, or HRV.

HRV is the beat-to-beat change that occurs naturally in a person’s heart rate. HRV recordings show that the heart responds immediately and dynamically to changing emotional states. Negative emotions such as anger, resentment, or anxiety create a disordered pattern or incoherent rhythm.

Research has established that incoherent rhythms are associated with many mental, emotional and physical ailments. In contrast, coherent rhythms or coherent biofeedback patterns are clearly associated with improved health and enhanced cognitive function. Positive emotion is the key to attaining a state of coherence.

Another technique you can use to encourage your heart to bring a positive influence to your brain and nervous system is to simply hold a positive experience in your mind. Then, intend to experience, to feel, the positive emotion associated with the person, place or time, and then imagine placing that positive feeling in your heart space and holding it there for a few minutes. Breathe the positive feeling into your heart. This exercise is especially helpful when you are in a stressful situation and feel yourself becoming angry.

Additionally, you can remember to look for the positive aspect of any situation currently facing you. It may take some real effort and thought, but a positive angle of learning is present in the challenges we confront in life; and our health and well being is enhanced when we intentionally choose to live more optimistically and when we create positive emotion in our heart. We can then achieve heart-felt health.

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Dr. Paula King is a licensed psychologist, who also holds certifications as a health coach, a HeartMath® biofeedback practitioner, an interactive imagery guide, and a sport psychologist. She can be reached at Healing Horizons, 970-256-8449.