The Heart-Brain Connection
We all learned in school that the brain is the control center of all organs, including the heart. Until the 1990s, scientists believed that the brain-heart connection was a one-way street, but now we know that this communication works both ways. Research has found that the heart actually sends far more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart! The heart has its own “brain” that communicates and influences our brain. This heart brain, the intrinsic nervous system, is a complex network of several types of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells, like those found in the brain. The neurons in your heart can sense, feel, learn and remember and have a significant effect on brain function, influencing emotional processing as well as higher cognitive functions.
One important way the heart influences the brain is when the heart is coherent – generating a stable, sine-wavelink pattern in its rhythms. When the heart rhythm is coherent, we experience all sorts of benefits, including better physical and emotional health. During coherence we experience improved cognitive ability and mental clarity, enhanced creativity, greater emotional balance, reduced stress and anxiety, enhanced immune function and much more.
Although the heart and brain are in constant communication, we can intentionally direct our heart to communicate to our brain and body in beneficial ways. Biofeedback can be a very helpful tool in learning how to bring oneself into coherence, as you’re able to view your heart rate pattern in real time.
Practice this on your own to find coherence in your heart signals:
Take a few deep breaths, noticing the gentle rise and fall of your belly as you breathe through your nose. Then, bring your focus on the area of your heart and feel as if you are breathing through your heart, washing the heart in fresh oxygen with each inhale, and removing the waste with each exhale. As you continue to breathe through the area of your heart, recall a positive feeling. This could be a feeling of love, gratitude or appreciation. It could be a memory of a person you love or a favorite place. When you feel that inner glow, you have achieved heart coherence. ENJOY your heart-brain connection!