And what I like to think about heart, as I’ve gone through my life trying to discover more about it, is it really is my own best friend, and my most reliable guide to making decisions, big and small.
To this point, I’ve been talking, I guess you could call it, philosophically inspirational about heart. And you’ve heard these things before.
At HeartMath, we’ve done lots of scientific research to look at heart in a different way, and to unfold a new understanding of heart that gives us more respect in it, and to do that, we’ve used science. We’ve discovered a lot of things about heart.
The heart is, in fact, a lot more than a blood pump. It sends powerful commands to the brain and to the rest of the body. It does it in four ways: There’s a neurological communication which Doug mentioned. The heart has its own very complex nervous system, sending information to the brain in the head. The brain sends information down to the heart; the heart sends information back to the brain; conversation happening all the time.
When researchers map out the neurological traffic in our bodies, they clearly see that the heart is sending a lot more information to the brain than it ever gets.
If you placed your finger on your wrist, you would feel your pulse; that’s a wave of energy created by the squeezing of the heart pushing blood through veins and arteries, it’s called “the blood pressure wave“, travels through the whole body, it influences everything, including brain function.
In 1983, something most people don’t know, the heart was actually reclassified as part of our hormonal system, because it produces several very important hormones. One is called “atrial peptide.” One of its jobs is to reduce the release of a stress hormone called cortisol.
I found that fascinating. The heart is producing a hormone to back off a stress hormone. I find this interesting.
Lastly, where it gets most interesting to me, is the electrical heart. The heart is an electrical organ; it produces, by far, the strongest source of bio-electricity in our bodies, up to 40-60 times stronger than the second most powerful source, which is our brain.
This electrical energy permeates every single cell in our bodies and is so strong it radiates beyond the skin out into space. It surrounds us in 360 degrees, and can be measured three to four feet outside the body. This electromagnetic energy in this field changes depending upon our emotional state.
This is where it gets intriguing. If we’re experiencing strong negative emotions like anger, frustration, resentment, all those things we can often feel, it produces an incoherent spectra in this electromagnetic field.
Conversely, if we begin to experience emotions, the same ones I mentioned before, long metaphorically associated with heart: love, care compassion, kindness, appreciation, tolerance, patience, non-judgment, those kind of things, it produces a coherent spectra in the field.
And we are broadcasting this electromagnetic energy to every single cell in our own bodies, and then communicating it outwards into space.
So there is an electromagnetic, or communication, always going on, so now we move in understanding heart beyond biology into physics. How does my field relate to your field? How do your collective fields together relate? How does the field in this room right now from the accumulation of association with each other and all the great speakers, how does that field relate to the fields of the earth itself?
And these are the new things that we’re exploring at HeartMath today. We can measure some of this by looking at what’s called our heart rhythms.
The medical term is” heart rate variability analysis.” Didn’t I say that good? I’m almost turning into a Californian “Heart rate variability analysis.”
What that means is our heart rhythms – it’s different than heart rate. Timing between heart beats changes between every single heart beat.
And as you map this out, very complex patterns emerge. It shows you a lot about what’s going on in the body, about our physical health, and about the quality of heart-brain communication.
In both of these, you see 200 seconds of data across the horizontal axis, you see beats per minute on the vertical axis. In the top view we have someone at HeartMath’s research lab experiencing the feeling of frustration. What happens is their heart rhythm patterns become very jagged and irregular, all over the place.
It’s not good for our physical health and it sends signals to the brain that begin to shut down the higher perceptual centers in our brain, called “cortical inhibition.”
The bottom view’s the same person, a few minutes later. What have they done? They’ve shifted from feeling frustration to feeling a heart-related emotion: appreciation. Now you see the smooth sine wave-like pattern. This is what high performance looks like.
This is what high-quality communication between heart and brain looks like, is when you see that sine wave-like pattern. This is really good for our health and it sends a signal to the brain that opens the brain up. It activates higher perceptual centers in the brain. It’s called “cortico-facilitation.”