There is a physical as well as a mental component to fear and anxiety. We know this: our hearts race, we sweat, our stomach churns, eyes dilate. Dr Bessel Van der Kolk, eminent psychiatrist and a world expert on traumatic stress, explains in his book ‘The body keeps the score’, how the body records and stores our emotional experiences.
I once experienced this first hand. Many years after a traumatic hospital experience, I took my son to a GP surgery. Within seconds, I could feel my body going into a panic attack, something I hadn’t experienced for over 5 years. I couldn’t understand why this would be happening until I looked around and saw a doctor who reminded me of the event. What amazed me was that my body reacted before I actually saw him.
Sarah Garfinkel of the University of Sussex, UK, also discovered this when she was working with Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans to understand the brain circuitry involved with trauma. She realised it was their bodies which were influencing their minds and, no matter how safe they were in reality, their body continued to express fear until it became their way of being. So she set out to discover the ‘mind-body’.
Incredibly Garfinkel found that “ signals from the heart can really drive and override conditioned fear responses”. This is the ‘scientific principle’ behind the success of Heartmath® techniques. They have been used for over 30 years to teach people to listen to their heart and to intercept the body’s messages to the brain in order to improve autonomic nervous system function.
Our internal organs, including our heart, generate electrical activity which is conveyed to the brain by our neurons. Science now knows that the electromagnetic field of the heart is sixty times more than that of the brain, whilst it’s magnetic field is an enormous 5000 times more. Incredibly the field of the heart extends outside the body and can be measured across the room so people around you feel, and respond to, your ‘heart waves’. The number of signals travelling from the heart to the brain vastly outstrips those going in the other direction and their effect on brain function is significant: cognition, memory, perception, emotion, problem solving.
Back in 1991, Doc Childre, after setting out to understand both the physical and the metaphorical heart, founded Heartmath®. He did this by testing, measuring, researching and analysing data to provide scientifically validated tools to access the heart’s intelligence. Doc Childre combined forces with Deborah Rozman, who, whilst studying ‘attitude change theory’ at University, discovered that people would receive different answers about the same issue, depending on whether they listened to their heart or their head. Together they researched and developed the powerful HeartMath® tools and techniques. They used their deep understanding of heart-brain dynamics to teach people to take back their power over their emotional well being. Over 300 peer reviewed papers show that when you live, work and play from the heart, you influence your physiology on many levels (nervous, immune, hormonal), to transform stress, raise your energy and improve well-being.
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“The brain thinks, but the heart knows” Joe Dispenza (neuroscientist)
HeartMath® certified coach
Spinney, L., (2020), Body Consciousness, New Scientist pp.29:32;
Childre, D & Rozman, D. (2005) Transforming stress: The Heartmath solution for relieving worry, fatigue and tension; NewHarbinger Publications Inc; Oakland;
Van der Kolk, B. (2014) The body keeps the score, Penguin.
Dispenza, J. (2017) Accessing the heart’s intelligence, www.joedispenza.com.