There is a major global shift underway. More change is happening at an accelerated rate than ever before, and as the world itself seems to be becoming increasingly chaotic, agitated and polarizing, more and more people are waking up to the deep desire and necessity to connect with the heart, themselves and with others.
In 1991, author Doc Childre founded the HeartMath Institute, a nonprofit research and education center, in anticipation of this shift in global consciousness. Foreseeing both the increasing stress epidemic faced by society and rising interest in the benefits of practicing heart qualities, such as forgiveness, gratitude and compassion, Childre set out to research the connection between the heart, the brain and the nervous system in hopes of finding some physiological metrics that can be used to scientifically support what nearly all spiritual, religious and indigenous traditions tell us: The heart is the source of connection, intuition, inspiration and wisdom.
Coherence: A state of optimal function
While in the lab, Childre and a core team of researchers discovered the state of psychophysiological coherence in which heart rhythms, brainwave rhythms and the nervous system all come into a state of entrainment or synchronicity, and everything functions more optimally. There is alignment and harmony within and among all of the systems, and the physiological (bodily) and psychological (mental and emotional) processes become highly ordered, improving health and fitness, sensory, motor and cognitive performances, self-regulation and emotional resilience, and overall wellbeing.
Scientists at the HeartMath Institute began looking at heart rhythm patterns formed by plotting the beat-to-beat changes in heart rate, known as heart rate variability (HRV). Over a period of time, these changes create a waveform. The researchers found that our feelings and emotions have powerful influence over our heart’s changing rhythms. When we’re experiencing negative or stressful emotions, such as frustration, impatience or anger, the HRV pattern becomes very jagged, erratic and disordered in what is called an incoherent waveform. The heart rhythm pattern becomes very smooth and structured (a coherent waveform) when we’re experiencing positive, uplifting and regenerative emotions, such as appreciation, joy, care and kindness.
Physiologically, a coherent waveform indicates synchronized activity in the two branches of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which regulates the majority of internal functions including cardiovascular activity. In this state, the body’s systems operate with increased order and efficiency. An incoherent heart rhythm pattern indicates that the two branches of the ANS are out of sync, and the associated systems aren’t functioning efficiently, thus depleting our energy and incurring wear and tear when sustained over long periods of time.
“HeartMath has discovered this whole window into the inner workings of when we’re feeling loving-kindness or compassion, when we’re doing heart-focused meditation, when we’re activating gratitude or appreciation—we can shift that pattern in a minute,” explains Deborah Rozman, PhD psychologist and founding executive director of HeartMath Institute. The Institute has developed a number of simple, user-friendly tools, techniques and training programs that anyone from any background can use to shift the stress response and create a state of coherence.
The heart is continuously sending signals to the brain (even more than the brain sends to the heart), through an extensive neural network that have distinct effects on cognitive and emotional function. More than two decades of HeartMath research demonstrates that our emotional state greatly affects the way we perceive, think, feel, behave, respond and perform. The heart rhythm pattern generated during stress and negative emotions send a corresponding pattern of neural signals to the brain that actually shuts down higher cognitive function (as part of the stress response), affecting our ability to think clearly, remember, reason, problem-solve and make effective decisions.
When we are experiencing positive emotions, the coherent heart rhythm pattern sends a corresponding message to the brain that the body’s systems are in cooperation. The brain responds by matching the pattern and creating coherence among the brain centers, facilitating higher cognitive function and reinforcing emotional stability and resilience. In a state of psychophysiological coherence, there’s an open channel between the heart, the brain and the body that allows us to move into flow states for fitness, performance, creativity and intuition.
The energetic heart
The heart sends out an electric pulse with every beat, generating the body’s most powerful and extensive rhythmic electromagnetic field (100 times greater than the brain’s magnetic field). This pulse permeates every cell and radiates out in all directions. Just as heart rhythm patterns are modulated by different emotional states, so are the electromagnetic pulses generated by the heart. Therefore, the way we feel (our mood, attitude, etc.) is encoded in our heart’s electromagnetic field, and energetically communicated throughout the body and beyond.
More than a decade of HeartMath research shows that the heart’s electromagnetic field, which can be detected three to five feet beyond the body, has the capacity to affect those around you. The people near you are able to pick up on the quality of your emotions without you having to verbally communicate the way you feel. What’s more, research scientists at the HeartMath Institute also found that the rhythmic electromagnetic pulses produced by the heart can be detected in another person’s brainwaves.
Studies showed that when people were feeling loving, caring or appreciative, the coherent waveform was transmitted through the electromagnetic field of the heart with every beat, and was showing up in people’s brainwaves—and vice versa.
Energetic connectivity and the collective field
“We really are all connected in the heart. We really all are radiating or communicating our vibes to each other whether we are sensitive to it or not,” says Rozman, who points out that every one of us, with every thought, feeing and intention, is affecting what is called the collective field environment.
Whether we recognize it or not, we are all tuned into the collective energetic field, both transmitting and receiving vibrational frequencies, and are continuously and energetically affecting one another, as well as everything in our environment.
Different feeling states have varying levels of frequency pitches (or vibrations). When we are frustrated, angry, impatient or anxious, our vibrational state is much lower than when we are joyful, patient, caring or inspired. Therefore, our moods, attitudes and dispositions are not only being affected by the collective field environment, but contributing as well. Once we understand that, we have an energetic responsibility for our own frequency pitch and contribution to the collective field environment.
“Our mission at HeartMath is to help activate the heart of humanity. And we do this by helping people bring their mental and emotional and physical systems into coherence alignment with the intuitive guidance of their heart,” explains Rozma.
As we as individuals take charge of our reactions, moods and behaviors, and do what it takes to shift our personal energetic frequencies, we actually help clear the collective field. The more personally coherent each of us becomes, the greater the chance for collective coherence, which in return makes it easier for more and more people to connect with and live from their hearts—ultimately shifting humanity.
Photo credit: Ben Duchac, Unsplash