Written by Jiori Orfanos, RN
Gratitude

Gratitude

Believe it or not, our emotions are powerful enough to cause calculable changes in our physiology.  The mind-heart-body connection is so strong that we can actually physiologically impact those around us … true story – here’s how…

The heart is often thought to beat with perfect regularity; however, there are small variations between those seemingly synchronous electrical impulses that constantly occur as a response to our emotional state. These beat-to-beat changes are referred to as Heart Rate Variability (HRV). When we are young, those variations vary greatly, reflecting the body’s high level of resilience early in life.  As we age, we become less resilient, and our HRV naturally decreases.

It is important to distinguish between thoughts and emotions.  It is not the thought, but the emotion that arises from a thought that causes our HRV to fluctuate.  Whether we remember an event that happened today or 10 years ago, our memories bring upon thoughts, which bring up emotions.  The emotion creates an impact on our body that changes our physiology.  The simple act of recalling a memory in which you experienced anger has far less physiological influence than actually being angry when recalling that memory.  The fluctuation occurs when you remember how angry you were versus becoming angry all over again.

Imagine your thoughts as little airplanes. You may not be able to stop them from flying around but you can most certainly decide which ones you allow to land. When the thought lands, the emotions disembark and start to affect our hearts and our bodies.   A negative emotion can cause physiologic discord; so you can imagine how our bodies would respond to a positive emotion – like gratitude!

When instilling the feeling of genuine gratitude, the rhythm of our heart and brain synchronizes, creating a state of what is called, ‘coherence.’ Coherence is more than just a warm, fuzzy feeling.  It actually enhances the body’s ability to give clarity to our thoughts, increases our ability to reason, and can even help us to heal more effectively. And if that were not enough, our heart’s electromagnetic field can actually penetrate those in close proximity to us. This means that our thoughts and our emotions have a measurable effect on the person sitting right next to us. How’s that for responsibility?   Bottom line, when you radiate love and gratitude from your heart, you create an environment for someone else to do the same.

At the HeartMath Institute in Boulder Creek, California, they are revealing through science what many spiritual leaders have taught and practiced for years:  all that you need is a beating heart and a little bit of gratitude to transform both your internal and external world.   And they have created a simple practice to help bring alignment to our heart, our minds and our bodies.

To experience this life-changing practice, follow these steps adapted from HeartMath’s Attitude Breathing Tool:

  1. Sit with your feet grounded on the floor and become still. Take a deep breath in for the count of 5 to 6 and picture yourself breathing in and out through your heart area.
  2. Identify a positive feeling such as love for a friend, or a time you felt very good, and concentrate on this while breathing out to the count of 5 to 6.
  3. Continue to breathe in and out, all while focusing on that positive feeling. Start by doing this for 30 seconds and continue as long as you would like.
  4. Gradually, as you become adept at this, you can choose new feelings or positive situations to focus on that will help you de-stress and experience deep well-being.

I invite you to embrace this practice into your daily life and begin to radiate gratitude for all those around you.

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