Life can sometimes feel stressful, chaotic and emotionally challenging. Here, I'm going to share with you a quick 60 second practice you can do any time, anywhere, to help you cultivate a state of calm and get in touch with positive emotions that are proven to increase well-being.
Research has shown that emotions have a strong effect on our physiology
Positive emotional states have a beneficial impact on well-being
Neural pathways and activities of the heart have a significant impact on brain function & emotions
The mind cannot hold a positive emotion and a negative emotion at the same time
Here, you will learn a technique to leverage the power of emotions to your benefit, through a phenomenon called "coherence"
The Importance of Self Care
Emotional well-being is one extremely important aspect of self care and it increases our capacity for kindness and compassion. Chronic stress has numerous effects on our overall well-being, including decreasing our emotional resilience. Additionally, in the Western world, we are not generally culturally conditioned to value kindness and compassion as a strength and asset. This has many potential ramifications, not the least of which is a tendency to undervalue self-compassion and adversely impact our resilience. All this can compound into stressors that keep us from being our best self and make coping with new situations more difficult.
The good news is that there are simple practices which can help us cultivate regenerative, or nurturing, emotions and develop greater resilience.
Quick Coherence Technique
There are many techniques to decrease stress and increase emotional well-being. The one I want to share with you today is called the "Quick Coherence Technique" and was developed by an organization called HeartMath Insititute. The basis for this technique is research that has shown emotions have a strong effect on our physiology, and vice versa.
Most of us experience life in a reactive state, where we are unconsciously responding to and reacting from our emotions. These emotions, especially when strong, dictate our experience of the world and interactions with others unless we learn to cultivate emotional awareness and self-regulation. Without these skills, our emotions can seem to rule our life or become overwhelming or out of control.
While we tend to think that our thoughts drive our emotions, it is equally true that our emotions drive our thoughts. Here, we are going to learn a technique to leverage the power of emotions to our benefit, using them to create a state of calm and peace through a phenomenon called "coherence".
This is a technique that you can do in as little as 60 seconds any time you notice a negative emotion arising.
Physiology and Emotions
The following information is from the HeartMath Institute:
It has been shown that engaging with the actual emotion of a memory has a stronger physiologic effect than merely mentally recalling an emotion. It has also been shown that positive emotional states have a beneficial impact on well-being, whether that be physical, mental or emotional well-being. Additionally, the neural pathways and activities of the heart have a significant impact on brain function and emotions. In the Quick Coherence Technique we use all three of these factors to create a state of intentional coherence and a rapid shift in well-being.
A state characterized by:
High heart-rhythm coherence (sine-wavelike rhythmic pattern).
Increased parasympathetic activity.
Increased entrainment and synchronization
between physiological systems
Efficient and harmonious functioning of the
cardiovascular, nervous, hormonal and immune systems.
There are twelve pages of interesting information on mind-heart coherence and the research HeartMath has been doing on their website.
Here is a snippet of what they have to share:
"Most of us have been taught in school that the heart is constantly responding to “orders” sent by the brain in the form of neural signals. However, it is not as commonly known that the heart actually sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart! Moreover, these heart signals have a significant effect on brain function – influencing emotional processing as well as higher cognitive faculties such as attention, perception, memory, and problem-solving. In other words, not only does the heart respond to the brain, but the brain continuously responds to the heart.
"HeartMath research has demonstrated that different patterns of heart activity (which accompany different emotional states) have distinct effects on cognitive and emotional function. During stress and negative emotions, when the heart rhythm pattern is erratic and disordered, the corresponding pattern of neural signals traveling from the heart to the brain inhibits higher cognitive functions. This limits our ability to think clearly, remember, learn, reason, and make effective decisions. (This helps explain why we may often act impulsively and unwisely when we’re under stress.) The heart’s input to the brain during stressful or negative emotions also has a profound effect on the brain’s emotional processes—actually serving to reinforce the emotional experience of stress.
"In contrast, the more ordered and stable pattern of the heart’s input to the brain during positive emotional states has the opposite effect – it facilitates cognitive function and reinforces positive feelings and emotional stability. This means that learning to generate increased heart rhythm coherence, by sustaining positive emotions, not only benefits the entire body, but also profoundly affects how we perceive, think, feel, and perform.
"Our research indicates that the key to the successful integration of the mind and emotions lies in increasing one’s emotional self-awareness and the coherence of, or harmonious function and interaction among, the neural systems that underlie cognitive and emotional experience."
"Many contemporary scientists believe it is the underlying state of our physiological processes that determines the quality and stability of the feelings and emotions we experience. The feelings we label as positive actually reflect body states that are coherent, meaning "the regulation of life processes becomes efficient, or even optimal, free-flowing and easy," and the feelings we label as "negative," such as anger, anxiety and frustration are examples of incoherent states. It is important to note, however, these associations are not merely metaphorical.
"For the brain and nervous system to function optimally, the neural activity, which encodes and distributes information, must be stable and function in a coordinated and balanced manner. The various centers within the brain also must be able to dynamically synchronize their activity in order for information to be smoothly processed and perceived. Thus, the concept of coherence is vitally important for understanding optimal function."
60 seconds to
Reduce Stress in the Moment
Feel positive, calm and energized
Increase emotional resilience
HEART FOCUSED BREATHING
your attention at the area of the heart
(place your hand over your heart)
your breathing is flowing in and out of the heart, or chest area
slightly slower and deeper than usual
ACTIVATE A POSITIVE FEELING
Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling
such as gratitude, appreciation or care
for someone or something in your life
Tips for Successful Emotional and Physiological Coherence
The Quick Coherence Technique is a two step process. Step one is to breath and to pay attention to your breathing. Step two is to recreate the feeling of a positive emotion. HeartMath calls these "regenerative feelings" because they support our well-being, increasing our energy and revitalizing our emotional state. If you are in a "funk" it can sometimes feel difficult to genuinely experience a positive emotion. But that's just because you are out of practice self-directing your emotions. It gets easier with practice.
There are a few ways to generate a positive emotion voluntarily. The one recommended in the Quick Coherence Technique is to think of a person or situation for which you generally feel gratitude, appreciation or care and then recreate the feeling of that positive emotion in your body. It is the recreation of the feeling of the emotion in your physical body that is the key to the effectiveness of this practice. So really try to get good at this.
Sometimes I find that the above technique doesn't always work easily for me if I am feeling sad or angry or particularly stressed or tired. Then I call on some of the other meditatio