heart-torusWhat is HeartMath?

The HeartMath Interventions (HMI) program is a biofeedback program that emphasizes the role of the heart and heart rate variability (HRV) as a key component to the emotional system. Recent biomedical research has clarified that the heart is much more than a simple pump. It is indeed a highly complex, self-organized information-processing center. Research has confirmed that the messages the heart sends to the brain not only affect physiological regulation, but also can profoundly influence perception, emotion, behavior, performance and health.

HMI combines emotional restructuring with biofeedback and relaxation techniques to assist your body in establishing a healthier response to stress. People who have utilized these techniques report results that are sustained over time because the HMI program helps create a change in your body’s baseline emotional and physiologic response to stress. However you may respond when you are experiencing increased stress-yelling at the kids or your spouse, high blood pressure, anxiety, PTSD, back and neck pain, or headaches-HeartMath can help. Self regulation is an empowering tool for those suffering from the effects of stress.

Mind Body Impact of HeartMath on Health

The HeartMath program shifts from a disease-based model to one that bridges the chasm between mind and body. It is a self-empowering program that offers tools and techniques that blend increased self-awareness with emotional self-regulation skills. By intentionally making internal adjustments with the initial support of HeartMath, individuals can self-regulate their emotional states to inhibit poor behavioral responses, re-establish stability and improve health and relationships.

HeartMath offers techniques to interrupt self-defeating cycles and provides opportunities to develop dynamic new patterns (efficient heart-rhythm patterns using heart rate variability (HRV) training) through positive emotional shifts and by reinforcing them until they become familiar. We offer practice through access to equipment at no charge. “By learning to access the intuitive intelligence of the heart, we are better able to care for ourselves, our families, our community, and the world itself.” Rollin McCraty, Ph.D. Institute of HeartMath.

Stress Reduction and HeartMath

Stress has become an all too familiar household word. “It’s just stress” is a phrase often used to dismiss an emotional outburst, forgetfulness, headache, pain, or illness. From a body-mind perspective, emotions are the main ingredient in the experience of stress; indeed, it is emotions—feelings such as anxiety, irritation, frustration, lack of control, overwhelm, hopelessness—that individuals experience when they describe themselves as “stressed.” HeartMath research indicates that emotions, even more than thoughts, activate and drive the body’s physical changes that correlate with the stress response. Thus, the key to optimal health and vitality is directly related to our ability to self-regulate our emotional experience. Simply stated, the emotions we often label as “negative” do, in fact, disrupt optimal physiological and mental functions. Conversely, the emotions we often refer to as “positive” facilitate a wide range of physiological functions, renew our energy, and optimize the body’s natural regenerative processes.

How Does HeartMath Work?

HMI utilizes intentionally generated heart rate rhythmic patterns (heart rate variability or HRV) with positive emotion based coherence building techniques to help create a permanent shift in the physiologic and emotional response to stress. The changes in HRV are monitored and give the user feedback on how their practice is changing their body’s response to stress. Stress is ever present. Stress reduction comes with reducing our response to the stress.

Emotional Physiology

A key area of focus at the HeartMath Research Center is exploring our emotions and how they affect our physiology, with an emphasis on the physiological effects of positive emotions, especially intentionally experienced positive emotions. Studies already have revealed there are pronounced beneficial changes in the patterns of activity in the autonomic nervous, immune and hormonal systems and the brain and heart when we experience emotions such as appreciation, love, care and compassion. There are indications these physiological changes may help explain the connection between positive emotions, improved health and increased longevity. IHM researchers have shown that the heart plays an important role in the generation and perception of emotion.

Development and Testing of Positive Emotion-Focused Tools, Techniques, Technology and Programs

Research into emotional physiology and heart-brain interactions has guided the development of practical, heart-based tools, techniques and technologies that enable people to sustain positive emotions and physiological coherence with greater consistency. They have been tested for effectiveness in laboratory studies as well as intervention studies conducted in educational, organizational and clinical settings.

Research on the Heart

Some intriguing facts that the research done through HeartMath has uncovered:

  • The heart generates by the far the most powerful and most extensive rhythmic electromagnetic field produced in the body. When electrodes placed on the body are used to measure the ECG, it is the electrical component of the heart that is measured. It has been found that the electrical voltage of the heart is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the electrical activity produced by the brain.
  • The magnetic component of the heart’s field is approximately 5,000 times stronger than the magnetic field produced by the brain.
  • Research has shown that the human nervous system is tuned to the heart fields of others and is able to detect and decode this energetic information.
  • Coherent energetic fields are interrelated and act to amplify and mutually reinforce each other.
  • Research has also shown that when an individual is in a coherent state (HeartMath trains to achieve coherent state), one’s sensitivity and awareness of this encoded information is increased.
  • The heart’s neural circuitry enables it to learn, remember and make functional decisions relative to the heart’s activity, all independent of the cranial brain.
  • The heart is itself a hormonal gland that manufactures and secretes numerous hormones and neurotransmitters. The heart releases atrial natriurectic factor (ANF). This hormone exerts its effects widely: on blood vessels, kidneys, adrenal glands and a large number of regulatory regions in the brain.
  • The heart also secretes oxytocin, commonly referred to as the “love” or “bonding” hormones. Remarkably, concentrations of oxytocin produced in the heart are as high as those found in the brain.
  • The heart communicates with the brain in four ways: a neurological communication through the nervous system (electrical); a biophysical communication – the pulse (pressure wave); a biochemical communication-the hormones (chemical); a energetic communication –(electromagnetic).