Magazine article Vegetarian Times

All You Need Is Love: Training the Heart to Cope with Stress

Magazine article Vegetarian Times

All You Need Is Love: Training the Heart to Cope with Stress

Article excerpt

Scientists have long known that extreme emotional upset can provoke a heart attack, and chronic tension and anger can predispose an individual to heart disease. But only recently have researchers learned exactly how negative emotions physically affect the heart and-more important-how individuals can "entrain" their own emotional response to react benignly to extreme conditions. New research from several frontsincluding the nonprofit Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, Calif.,-tells us that the heart has its own intrinsic nervous system, and it's much more sophisticated than previously thought.

When we're angry or frustrated, we generate disordered heart rhythms, which are communicated to the brain and transmitted throughout the body, stressing the central nervous system, the heart and every cell in the body. Positive emotions-love, care and appreciation-not only make us feel better, but increase the synchronization between the brain and the rest of the body, lowering blood pressure, strengthening the immune system and increasing creativity and mental clarity.

People have been using various relaxation exercises, such as controlled breathing, meditation and biofeedback, with great success for years. "But these methods typically don't lead to 'entrainment,' which brings the heart, brain and body into balance" says HeartMath's Rollin McCraty, M.D. "When you're feeling angry, anxious or frustrated, it's like your body is at war with yourself."

HeartMath has devised an easy, five-step exercise called "Freeze-Frame" to deal with stress as it occurs. McCraty recommends practicing this technique during small irritations, such as an ill-timed phone call or a traffic jam. …

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