“We are coming to understand health not as the absence of disease, but rather as the process by which individuals maintain their sense of coherence (i.e. sense that life is comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful) and ability to function in the face of changes in themselves and their relationships with their environment.”
Aaron Antonovsky (1987)
Never as nowadays, stress reduction and emotional management have been precious to people for the control of physical and psychological health. Many studies, and not only recent ones, relate the stress condition, especially the chronic one, to a lowered immune system and a higher propensity to fall sick: cortisol levels increase in the stress response and this in turn lowers the immune response: the organism is ready to “fight” and does not want to invest energy to counteract infections. In the long run this condition is counterproductive for the whole body.
There are now many stress reduction tools that help lowering the negative effects of a prolonged stress. One such tool is the “HeartCoherence”, as taught by Dr. David O’Hare, reached through a simple action of breathing for three minutes at a time, three times a day, at the count of 5 in (inhale) and count of 5 out (exhale).
However, many of such tools are only temporary and short-termed. New more efficient ways to manage the emotions that surge during a stressful or negative situation have been proposed by the Hearthmath institute in California. They are based on a direct control of the heart rate variability (another meaning of Heart Coherence) via focusing on “positive emotions” or heart-focused positive feelings. There is here as well a need to 'train' or practice every day : the training consists of simple 10 minutes of conscious breathing, while focusing on the heart and concentrating on positive feelings. However, this practice can also be used in the moment of surging stress, helping a shift of mood from negative to positive.
This practice is very similar to a 'meditation' in the buddist fashion: consciousness of breathing, consciousness of your thinking, and focusing on a positive emotion. Buddist meditation would suggest sitting still, to still the mind, and practice from 10 minutes to half an hour or more, once or more times a day. However this type of meditation is also done walking or doing daily activities...if one is trained enough to keep the focus while doing! The beauty of Heart -math method is that it also offers you a visual feedback of the reaction of your body to the slow regular breathing and good thought-focusing. If you have access to the software or if you learn with a practitioner.
A series of physiological and psychological benefits (slower heart rate, slower blood pressure, slower cortisol, better concentration abilities, better memory etc.) has been measured when such types of meditation and focused attention are applied. Specifically Heart-math, relates to an attained psychophysiological coherence, i.e. the body being in unison in its periods of heart beat, brain waves, breathing cycles etc., enhancing the well being and performance of the entire organism. The focus is on the heart and the breathing and the result is on the brain and the body.
What is fascinating is that according to the recent studies, a connection between the heart and the brain would be insured by messages sent by the heart to the brain via a nervous channel departing from individual nervous cells located inside the heart itself. The heart would have a certain control on the central brain. This would result in an image shift about human beings: from brain-centered systems, as the human organism has always been considered, to heart–centered systems, as many spiritual practices have always suggested.
Emotional self-management, as taught by the Heartmath institute, can improve the immune system, lower cortisol (the number one stress hormone) and increase DHAE, precursor hormone of testosterone and estrogen, which is deficient in individuals who suffer from many diseases, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, Alzheimer’s, immune deficiency, coronary artery disease and various autoimmune disorders.
These tools have applications at the personal level as well as in business, education (at all levels), clinical environment, etc. The Hearthmath-based therapy is used with tremendous results on cardiopathic patients in hospitals.
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