The Heart Speaks (Are You Listening?)
Loneliness, anger, and grief can break hearts as easily as high blood pressure. To heal the heart, feel the love.
The Little Brain
But here's the reality of our lives: When we're flying down the freeway --
and someone cuts in - the first reaction is to blast the horn, yell a few
choice words. "We've all seen men go into road rage, a totally instinctive
reaction," says Guarnier.
When we react on instinct, it's the amygdala region of the brain doing the
driving. That's the brain center that stores old memories, she explains.
"When someone pushes your buttons, you react immediately; you're reacting
to something else that happened long ago. When it's such a quick reaction, you
haven't had time to process."
In her book, Guarneri talks about the "heart brain" -- the heart's
ability to communicate with the rest of the body. The heart is a gland that
produces hormones and chemicals, like dopamine and adrenaline, which are
involved in emotions, she explains.
"While we may believe the brain is our decision maker and ruler, the
10-ounce heart is more powerful than we ever imagined -- functioning as a
sensory organ, hormone-producing gland, and information-processing center,"
At the Institute for HeartMath, a nonprofit research and education
organization, researchers have studied the heart-brain communication system.
That research shows that it's possible to retrain how your heart-brain
connection to produce a more stable heart rhythm, Guarneri explains.
Negative emotions like rage and frustration will trigger changes in the
heart rhythm, creating a chaotic heart pattern that adversely affects the whole
body, she explains. However, positive feelings like appreciation and love can
produce a stable heart rhythm, which trains other organs to function optimally,
HeartMath has developed a core technique to do just that called Freeze
Frame. When in a stressful situation, you must stop the moment "as if
you're freezing a frame in a movie," says Guarneri. Then consciously shift
to a positive emotion in order to reverse the effects of hostility or
"People who are able to practice this self-management technique are able
to generate consistent changes in their heart rhythm," she writes. "By
consciously shifting to a positive emotion, they can reverse the negative
effects on the heart."
"If you're in an angry, frustrated state, your body is producing stress
hormones that are creating a chaotic heart rhythm," Guarneri explains.
"There's an outpouring of adrenaline and cortisol that increases heart
rate, blood pressure, and make platelets stickier, all of which can cause a
"An animal reacts on instinct," Guarnier tells WebMD. "Reining
that in ... that's what separates us from dogs."