Psychologists once maintained that emotions were purely mental expressions generated by the brain alone. We now know this is not true. Emotions have as much to do with the heart and body as they do with the brain. Of all your body’s organs, it is the heart, a growing number of scientists theorize, that plays perhaps the most important role in our emotional experience. What we experience as an emotion is the result of the brain, heart, and body acting in concert.
HeartMath studies define a critical link between the heart and brain. The heart is in a constant two-way dialog with the brain. Our emotions change the signals the brain sends to the heart and the heart responds in complex ways. Today we now know the heart sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart, and the brain responds to the heart in many important ways. This research explains how the heart responds to emotional and mental reactions and why certain emotions stress the body and drain our energy. As we experience feelings like anger, frustration, anxiety and insecurity, our heart-rhythm patterns become more erratic. These erratic patterns are sent to the emotional centers in the brain, which recognizes them as negative, or stressful feelings. These signals create the actual feelings we experience in the heart area and elsewhere in the body. Erratic heart rhythms also block our ability to think clearly.
Many studies have found that the risk of developing heart disease is significantly increased for people who frequently experience stressful emotions such as irritation, anger or frustration. These emotions create a chain reaction in the body: stress-hormone levels increase, blood vessels constrict, blood pressure rises and the immune system is weakened. If we consistently experience these emotions, it can put a strain on the heart and other organs and eventually lead to serious health problems.
Conversely, HeartMath’s research shows, when we experience heartfelt emotions such as appreciation, love, care and compassion, the heart produces a very different rhythm – one that has a smooth pattern and looks something like gently rolling hills. Scientists consider harmonious, or smooth heart rhythms, which are indicative of positive emotions, to be indicators of cardiovascular efficiency and nervous-system balance. This lets the brain know the heart feels good; often we experience this as a gentle, warm feeling in the area of the heart. Learning to shift out of stressful emotional reactions to these heartfelt emotions can have profound positive effects on our cardiovascular systems and overall health. As you begin to understand and appreciate the important link that exists between the heart and emotions, you will start to see how it is possible to shift the heart into a more efficient state by actually monitoring heart rhythms.
Visit the HeartMath Institute webpage for a wealth of information on the role of the emotions and heart health heart at www.heartmath.org