of HeartMath (http://www.heartmath.org) has conducted extensive research showing that good health starts with
love, and that love can reduce stress. Simple, quick exercises such as
re-imagining a cherished memory can significantly improve your health when
done on a regular basis. With a client list which now includes such leading
companies as Hewlett Packard, Shell, Unilever, Cisco Systems, and Boeing,
the HeartMath Institute has developed a powerful track record in helping managers
and employees to decrease stress and increase joy in their lives and work.
Since its inception in 1991, the HeartMath Institute has published a large
body of scientific research in established and respected publications such
as the Harvard Business Review and the American Journal of Cardiology. Consider exploring the HeartMath exercises and visiting their inspiring website.
The below, highly inspirational article on HeartMath was published in the
excellent magazine, Ode. Every
issue of Ode is filled with stories which deeply inspire and empower.
As stated in the below article, may we all remember that we can change the
world one heart at a time, starting with ourselves.
Note: To watch an inspiring, one-minute video describing HeartMath principles,
A change of heart changes everything
This article appeared in Ode magazine issue 24, June 2005
institute demonstrates how people can actually make their heart beat in a
healthier way. Through its research, the Institute of HeartMath proves
that health starts with love, and that love can reduce stress. It is a
method that is used by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and more
than 100 organizations—from global corporations to hospitals to government
agencies and schools. This simple method is changing the world. A report from
Boulder Creek, California.
All you need
is love, sang John Lennon.
True, according to most people.
The only challenge: how do you create love?
A quite startlingly
simple answer was found to that question in the redwood forests of Boulder
Creek, California, south of San Francisco. Since 1991, the Institute of HeartMath
has generated a large body of convincing scientific evidence that it is indeed
possible to create love. HeartMath's research shows that emotions work
much faster, and are more powerful, than thoughts. And that—when it comes
to the human body—the heart is much more important than the brain to overall
health and well-being—even cognitive function—than anyone but poets believed.
Its dominance inside the body is now clearly demonstrated. Thinking clearly
with your brain is useful. But feeling positively from your heart provides
an amazing boost to health and creativity.
re-experiencing a cherished memory creates synchronization in your heart rhythm
in mere seconds. This increases the release of healthy, energizing hormones,
while at the same time decreasing levels of damaging stress hormones, at the
same time your immune system is strengthened, blood pressure decreases … and
health and focus increase. Using a simple prescription that consists of
a number of exercises that anyone can do anywhere in a few minutes—the details
are coming shortly—HeartMath is successfully battling the greatest threat
to health, happiness and peace in this world: stress.
the plague of our time, an epidemic that is spreading rapidly. The World Health
Organization (WHO) raised the alarm 20 years ago, but things have only gotten
worse. Every day some one million Americans fail to come to work due to stress.
The European Union estimated in 2000 that the annual price tag of stress,
in the form of healthcare costs and lost productivity, amounts to some three
to four percent of the EU's gross domestic product. Stress is one of the most
important causes of high blood pressure, which afflicts one in three adults
in Europe and North America and is the cause of many serious illnesses such
as heart disease and stroke. Stress also lies at the basis of depression and
news is that the negative effects of stress can be effectively countered more
easily than people might imagine. This leads to better performance in
every aspect of life. It is therefore a smart strategy for every organization
to tackle this source of excessive costs and human strain," according to HeartMath's
president and CEO Bruce Cryer.
has now permeated many companies and institutions. Managers are sent to stress
seminars. Yoga lessons are offered at company headquarters. And there are
even companies that encourage their employees to take vacations. But these
measures aren't very effective as long as stress continues to permeate the
corporate culture. The sense of relief from a yoga lesson or a weekend at
the beach is often lost during the first chat with a frustrated colleague
at the coffee machine. A successful anti-stress strategy provides results
precisely at the moment the stress is experienced. This is what HeartMath
does, which is why its client list now includes such leading companies as
Hewlett Packard, Shell, Unilever, Cisco Systems, and Boeing.
was established in 1991 by Doc Lew Childre. Childre had made a name for himself
as a researcher and advisor to companies and scientific institutions. With
the founding of HeartMath, he embarked on his mission to demonstrate that
the heart was central to human health, success and fulfillment. While HeartMath's
techniques emphasize the importance of emotional self-management, HeartMath
is no new age phenomenon. It is a research institute that has published a large body of scientific research in established
and respected publications such as the Harvard Business Review and the American
Journal of Cardiology.
Those publications support HeartMath's central
aim of presenting revolutionary scientific discoveries in a solid, "bullet
proof" way. It has demonstrated significant cost savings for healthcare organizations
struggling with staff turnover, and has shown significant health benefits
in an array of studies covering congestive heart failure, diabetes, asthma,
and hypertension. As Cryer says, "HeartMath is not based simply on belief.
There are proven physiological reactions in how emotion, heart and brain interact."
In other words: HeartMath's work is kept scrupulously free of the obvious
potential for opportunism.
Which is admirable
given that financing and survival issues have presented tricky challenges
for the organization through the years. HeartMath's location reflects this
cautious strategy. The institute is located in a group of buildings on a lovely
retreat-like setting in Boulder Creek, a town that is nearly impossible to
find among the tall trees of the ancient Californian forests. Stress and Boulder
Creek have little to do with one another, I realize, following a drive through
the pouring rain. And yet the decision to locate HeartMath here was not so
odd. Forty-five minutes down the road is a well-known hotbed of this "modern
plague:" Silicon Valley.
Rollin McCraty is in his office—a simple study with a huge window looking
out over a wooded slope—working on one of HeartMath's latest initiatives:
a computer-driven experiment that shows how the heart reacts more quickly
to external stimuli than the brain. HeartMath programs utilize
an innovative biofeedback system—developed by founder Doc Childre—whereby
your finger or ear is hooked up to a sensor that shows the heart's activity
on a computer screen. The feedback is not a precondition for the result
of the HeartMath exercises, but seeing your heart rhythms live on a computer
screen makes it easier to convince critics of the favourable effect of positive
internal feelings using modern instruments is not new in itself. For example,
with the help of the electroencephalogram (EEG), it has been proven that meditating
yogis produce completely different brain waves than—say—stock traders on Wall
Street. But HeartMath's heart-driven method extends much further than relaxation
through meditation. McCraty notes, "Meditation is mainly geared towards
consciously separating yourself from the reality around you. That has totally
different physical consequences than our approach, which is geared towards
actively adding positive energy to a particular situation."
the heart's reaction to particular events, HeartMath uses a relatively new
concept—one that is currently a hot item in mainstream medicine—as an indicator
of a healthily functioning body: heart rate variability (HRV). Research conducted
10 years ago by Dr Andrew Armour of Dalhouse University in Halifax, Canada
showed that the heart has its own neural network—in essence, a little brain.
HRV—the rhythm of the time period between two heartbeats—plays a key role
in that network. It has now been demonstrated that the heart sends signals
to the brain and the hormonal system via nerves which carry the heart rhythm
patterns. It doesn't matter so much how many times a heart beats per minute;
it's the rhythm of the heartbeat that counts.
and HeartMath's research team have discovered that certain patterns in the
heart rhythm correspond to a particular emotional state. McCraty explains,
"With every heartbeat, information is supplied that affects our emotions,
our physical health and the quality of our lives." This means that feelings
of compassion, love, care and appreciation produce a smoothly rolling—HeartMath
calls it "coherent"—heart rhythm, while feelings of anger, frustration, fear
and danger emit a jagged and capricious—"incoherent"— image. But this is
more than a statistical difference. HeartMath's research shows that a different
heart rhythm leads to other chemical and electrical—even neurological—reactions
in the body.
put: when people experience love, they not only feel happy and joyful, but
they also produce, for example, more DHEA, the hormone that prevents aging,
and gives us feelings of youthful vitality. Not surprisingly, a synthetic
form of the hormone is currently sold in pill form at drugstores and health
food stores. At the same time, the production of damaging stress hormones
like cortisol is reduced. High levels of cortisol have been associated with
Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, depression and fatigue.
a "loving body" absorbs less cholesterol, thereby preventing arteries from
clogging while boosting production of immunoglobulin A, an important biochemical
that boosts immune function. In addition, blood pressure stabilizes. McCraty
links this effect to problems many organizations face: "There is a clear connection
between healthcare costs and blood pressure levels. When your blood pressure
falls, so do visits to the doctor…" And so HeartMath concludes that love is
both an emotional and a physical state: positive feelings—like love—generate
health. The reverse is also true. Someone who is angry produces less DHEA
and more cortisol. And so on. HeartMath's slogan—a change of heart changes
everything—pretty much sums it up.
But how do
you "change your heart?" According to HeartMath research, it is much simpler
than it looks. McCraty says, "If you consciously shift your attention to
a positive emotion, like appreciation or care, or if you allow your thoughts
to return to the feeling of a cherished memory, your heart rhythm changes
This phenomenon continues to astonish the some 25,000 people
who attend HeartMath courses each year. Initially, HeartMath utilized expensive
medical equipment to measure and display the heart rhythm. But since 2000
HeartMath has offered a "do-it-yourself" equivalent: the Freeze-Framer, an
award-winning computer program with an innovative sensor that anyone can install
in their computer at home or at work. So far, HeartMath has sold more than
30,000 of these systems.
time I start up the Freeze-Framer at home and attach the sensor to my finger,
a freakish pattern appears on my computer screen. My heart rhythm
is all wild peaks and valleys or—in HeartMath jargon—an "incoherent pattern."
I then perform my prescribed exercise. I shift my thoughts to the area around
my heart, I visualize that I'm breathing in through my heart and out through
my solar plexus (the energy point under the breastbone, above the belly button).
I remember a sweet memory with my daughter. I feel the warmth of our contact
at that moment … and I see the graph on the computer screen change.
which I've only been doing for a couple of minutes, is quick and effective.
The volatile peaks change into rolling hills on my screen. My incoherent heart
rhythm has synchronized into a coherent rhythm. And what I can't see on the
line of the graph, but know—from HeartMath research—is that my body is now
functioning in a more healthy and wholesome way.
is convincing. A group of managers from Motorola attended a HeartMath workshop
and were tested six months later on the results of their daily exercises.
One-quarter of the managers had high blood pressure at the start of the project.
After six months, they all had normal blood pressure levels. In another
study with Hewlett-Packard managers, the average blood pressure fell from
138/86 to 128/80. This large an improvement is comparable to the effect of
losing nearly 20 kilos (44 pounds).
study of employees at the food and household products multinational Unilever
shows that the production of the favourable hormone DHEA increased by an average
of 50 percent after six months of HeartMath exercises and rose to 90 percent
after nine months. The exercises also work for people with chronic diseases.
For example, diabetes patients who performed a total of one hour of HeartMath
exercises every week for six months scored significantly better on a number
of health aspects crucial to them. Another HeartMath study indicates that
the savings on health care costs and absenteeism can run up to $700 U.S.
(540 euros) per employee a year. For a company with 1,000 employees, that
would mean a savings of $700,000 U.S. (540,000 euros) a year.
the exercises are so easy may well be the most promising aspect of the HeartMath
system. Bruce Cryer notes, "Time pressure is continually increasing. No
matter how good a program might be for them, many people simply don't take
the time to invest in their emotional and physical health every day. People
want exercises to take virtually no time, but to yield results. That's the
strength of our approach.
You can learn the techniques in five minutes
and get positive results if you do them a few times a day for 30 seconds. When you're on your way to your next meeting, for example. Or when you start
up your computer. Or sitting at a stoplight. Or waiting to make a phone call.
Or before starting to check your e-mails. By making the techniques simple
and quick, you can integrate them into your daily schedule without having
to drastically change your life."
using the Freeze-Framer is particularly helpful in recognizing stress patterns.
You gain insight into your own behaviour and the effect of that behaviour
on your health. In that respect, the Freeze-Framer works like a thermometer:
you get to the point where you don't need to take your temperature any more
to know you have a fever. As a result, it becomes ever easier to quickly correct
the experience of stress.
Cryer says, "HeartMath's aim is to eliminate
stress. Of course we can't eliminate stressful events from our lives, but
we can change our physiological and emotional response to them. The goal is
to teach you to recognize which circumstances create stress so you can change
your reaction to those situations. For example, practising a HeartMath
technique helps you not to curse if someone cuts you off on the highway, but
to react differently. And the most important result is that no damaging stress
hormones are released in your body and no damaging comments come out of your
mouth that could make the situation much worse."
the only effective answer to stress? Clearly not. Every walk on the beach
is beneficial. The same goes for an enjoyable concert. And for experiences
of friendship and love. There are also other promising initiatives with a
comparable focus. Ode previously reported on the work of the Italian Amedeo
Maffei (see Ode, June 2002) as well as the computer game Wild Divine (see
Ode, April 2004). And there are other projects geared towards synchronising
the heart and brain rhythms to stimulate favourable biochemical and electrical
processes in our bodies.
But the strength of HeartMath lies in the convincing
evidence of the effectiveness of the exercises and their simplicity. And
its approach takes into account the sense of time pressure continually experienced
by the stressed target group.
and more health is, of course, enough of a recommendation for following HeartMath's
system. But there's more: studies show that the electromagnetic field of the
heart (which is created by the heart's electrical system, or electrocardiogram)
can be measured from between two and three metres from the body. HeartMath
has discovered that if someone has a coherent heart rhythm, it has a demonstrably
positive effect on other people in close proximity to him or her (and
the reverse is also true). Just think about how you feel in the presence of
someone who is appreciative or caring, compared to being close to someone
angry or frustrated.
That is: if
your own heart rhythm is coherent, there is a greater chance that your environment
will also behave coherently.
That is: the health of your environment starts with your own health.
That is: changing the world starts with you.
how, "A lot of people feel powerless. Climate change. Poverty. War. Terrorism.
There are so many things we could fear in the world. So where do you start
as an individual, when the size of the problems seem so daunting? It is important
to know that you can have a demonstrably positive effect on the world. We
can change the world, starting with ourselves."
is behind all the solid research done by HeartMath. This vision also explains
why the Institute never opted for quick fixes, but instead preferred building
steady proof of concept.
Cryer concludes, "It is our mission to help the
world change, by helping people change. The root of most of our world's problems
is a lack of emotional management, a lack of understanding, care, respect
and compassion. Most organizations and governments are fairly dysfunctional,
because their leaders lack skills to manage themselves emotionally, let alone
be an example for others to follow. That dysfunction damages the planet every
day. We offer tools that are needed to eradicate major challenges and problems
and to prevent wrongs."
help the heart to make love.
All you need is love, John Lennon sang.
It's as simple as that.
Note: To watch an inspiring, one-minute video describing HeartMath principles,
click here. To see the above essay on the website of Ode magazine,
click here. To explore the Institute of HeartMath website, go to http://www.heartmath.org.
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