Follow your heart (1)

We can be contacted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via our mobile phones, our inbox is constantly filled with stuff demanding our attention, we share the latest news via Twitter, we maintain our network via LinkedIn or Facebook and we catch up on friends just as easily via MSN or Skype. On top of all that, we keep up to date with the latest news and developments via internet, TV and other media. ‘In the good old days’ we could safely call someone back the next day without experiencing any feelings of guilt, but nowadays we apologise if we don’t answer the phone straight away (‘sorry, I was on the other line when you called’). The other side of the coin is that we’re constantly being interrupted when we’re busy doing something, so we’re forced to stop to focus attention on the new activity (did you stop something you were doing just to read this newsletter?). Research has shown that this constant switching of attention is one of the biggest causes of stress. Being exposed to stress over a long period can in turn cause physical and mental complaints: headache, sleeplessness, lack of concentration, over-excitement, memory lapses, cardiac-related illnesses, stomach- and intestine complaints and infectious diseases. For more information on stress and its consequences, take a look at this site on how to deal with stress.

So how should we deal with stress? Of course it’s useful to find out what’s causing it and to see if you can eliminate the source. For example, you can reduce the stress caused by constant interruptions by reserving time in your diary to work on a specific activity and at the same time switching off your telephone and shutting down your e-mail application. But you won’t always be able to remove the source of your stress. In such cases, it’s important to try to minimise the effect of the stress by, for example, consciously taking time to relax during some part of the day or at the end of it. You could take up a sport, go for a walk, do yoga or mindfulness, etc. These methods help, but … they do their job after the fact! That means that stress has been allowed to build up in your body and this affects how you function. It’s more effective to tackle the stress when it starts to make its appearance or even before it gets that far. You can do this by making use of the positive power of your heart. Because your heart is more than just a mechanical pump pushing blood through your body. In the far east and in ‘traditional cultures’ this has been known for centuries. And in our rational western world too when you think about it. Because when we talk about being authentic, we mean doing what our heart tells us to do. And when it comes to making decisions, we advise each other to follow our hearts. And when we are in love we ‘give’ our heart to someone else. I’m sure you can think of other expressions in your language incorporating the word heart.

For the past 20 years, the Institute of HeartMath has been researching how we can harness the power of the heart to reduce stress in the moment. The researchers do this by combining spirituality and science. Here are a few facts about our heart that give us insights into the ‘other’ powerful functions of this organ (source: Doc Childre & Howard Martin, The HeartMath Solution).

  • The heart of an unborn child starts beating even before the (emotional) brain has been formed. The heartbeat is generated within the heart itself and does not need a connection with the brain to continue beating.
  • The heart has its own independent nervous system (its own ‘brain’) consisting of at least 40,000 neurons of various types, but also of neurotransmitters, proteins and supporting cells.
  • An interaction takes place between the ‘heart brain’ and the brain itself, whereby the brain automatically carries out the ‘instructions’ given by the heart. However, signals sent by the brain are not automatically responded to; the heart thinks first about whether and how it will respond. Additionally, more signals are sent from the heart to the brain than in the other direction.
  • The heart communicates with the brain and the rest of the body via three systems: neurologically (the nervous system), biochemically (hormones and neurotransmitters) and biophysically (each heartbeat generates a powerful pulse that moves through the veins faster than the blood itself).
  • Additionally, evidence is increasingly being found for the existence of a 4th means of communication with the brain and the rest of the body, namely energetic communication. With every heartbeat, the heart produces a powerful electromagnetic field that is 5,000 times stronger than the field produced by your brain and which can be measured up to three metres outside your body.

In another article, I will explain in more detail some of the insights the Institute of HeartMath has gained concerning the impact of stress on the heart, the importance of heartbeat variations and heart coherence, as well as a method for neutralising stress in the moment.

The challenge this time is to get working with the power of your heart by evoking authentic feelings of acknowledgement and appreciation. To achieve this, I would like you in the next three weeks to tell at least six people (in both the personal and professional field) personally why you appreciate them so much. Spontaneously, without any specific reason, straight from the heart! The wonderful thing about this is that you won’t be the only one experiencing the power of the heart, but that the other person will also directly experience your heart power. The kind of consequences this can have is beautifully shown in the short film ‘validation’. But I do have to mention one condition for entering into this challenge: if the assignment gives you too much stress, then express your appreciation via the telephone or e-mail. After all, the last thing I want is to raise your stress level!

Enjoy the power of your heart!

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