Julie Rowin MD
The heart-brain connection: Listening to your heart can help your health
Do you desire to make important diet or lifestyle changes but are having difficulty starting or sticking with a plan? Practicing this quick and simple technique throughout the day can help you to act and make decisions that come from a place of inner wisdom and clarity. This includes making wise decisions about your health, relationships and other important life choices.
Most of us have been taught that the heart is consistently responding to signals sent by the brain. It is not as commonly known, however, that the heart actually sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart! Ancient cultures were well aware of what modern science is just beginning to understand and that is that the heart is much more than a blood pumping organ.
The heart and autonomic nervous system (which is responsible for control of bodily functions that are not consciously directed such as heartbeat, digestion and breathing) have an extensive neural network to the brain.
These heart signals have a significant effect on brain function – influencing emotional processing as well as higher cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and problem-solving.
The heart and autonomic nervous system act as an auxiliary brain that gives the body the ability to independently sense and process information, even make decisions before the conscious mind has any awareness of what is happening. Scientific studies have reproducibly shown that subjects can detect emotionally charged content in their bodies without them even registering in their brains.(1,2,3) Research points to the heart and gut as being fully intelligent systems that are able to assess situations at a rate much faster than the conscious mind.
In other words, not only does your heart respond to your brain, but your brain continuously responds to your heart.
The following technique called ‘Freeze Frame’ from the HeartMath Institute(4), strengthens this heart-brain connection in order to foster problem-solving from a more intuitive place. Practice this technique whenever you need help with decision making or clarity of thought.
Try it. Get a paper and pen and sit in a comfortable position and follow these instructions:
Acknowledge. Think of a specific situation which has been difficult to solve. Write down the situation. Start with something simple. Now write down how you feel mentally and emotionally about the situation.
Breathe into the heart center. Focus on the area around your heart, the chest area. You may want to close your eyes. Breathe at a comfortable pace, focusing on your breath moving in and out of the chest area. You can watch a quick video on the Quick Coherence technique by Vered Kogan, certified HeartMath Trainer to get you started, then follow the steps below. Do this breathing until you feel calm and focused.
Activate a positive feeling of gratitude. While continuing to breathe and focusing on the heart area, make a sincere attempt to feel gratitude for a person or situation in your life. This will be a re-experiencing of a person, pet, or situation that leads you to feel a sense of appreciation, gratitude or joy, for example.
Ask. From this heart space of gratitude ask yourself “What would be an efficient or effective action, attitude or solution?”
Observe. Listen to the response of your heart. Sit quietly and notice any subtle changes in perception, feeling or attitudes that arise. Write down what your heart’s intuitive guidance has offered you, even if it is only one or two words or a simple attitude shift that your heart is suggesting.
Commit to sustaining the beneficial attitude shifts or acting on new insights you have had. Read what you first wrote down under number 1 and read your hearts response under number 5. Which is more intelligent?
Once you are accustomed to using this technique while writing, you can use it more casually to gain the intuitive discrimination you need to make more effective actions and decisions. This technique will allow you access to the larger deeper part of yourself where wisdom lies. Practicing this technique regularly will lead to positive results in physical health, emotional well-being, mental clarity and relationship harmony.
Mossbridge JA, Tressoldi P, Utts J, Ives JA, Radin D, Jonas WB. Predicting the unpredictable: critical analysis and practical implications of predictive anticipatory activity. Front Hum Neurosci. 2014;8:146.
Bem D, Tressoldi P, Rabeyron T, Duggan M. Feeling the future: A meta-analysis of 90 experiments on the anomalous anticipation of random future events. F1000Res. 2015;4:1188.
Radin D. May et al.'s "anomalous anticipatory skin conductance response to acoustic stimuli". Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, NY). 2005;11(4):587-588.
HeartMath LLC. www.heartmath.com