Talk Therapy May Be Falling Short!
Did you know that your heart sends more messages up to the brain than the brain sends down to the heart? This is different than the gut brain axis, where your gut is mostly responding to what the brain is telling it. This is very important when you are grappling with chronic anxiety or stress and wondering why no matter how many different types of talk therapies you have tried you still don’t feel well. In fact, one of my clients told me recently “I am so exhausted by the effort.” If you feel discouraged about your efforts to change your anxiety or depression or chronic stress, it may be time to practice a different approach — one that considers the importance of what is going on in your body, particularly your heart. Your cardiac baseline rhythm and nervous system communication may need to be shifted. According to the head of Research for the HeartMath Institute Dr. Rollin McCraty, “the only way to sustain change is to change the cardiac baseline….You cannot think yourself into a new baseline.”
What is a Cardiac Baseline and Why does it Matter?
Your baseline is the familiar heart rate signals and the corresponding messages sent up to your brain through your Vagus Nerve. The brain (in particular, your amygdala) is looking for a match or a mismatch of what is familiar. If feeling anxious or depressed is familiar, then that is what feels most comfortable to your brain. What the simple HeartMath tools do is change the pattern quickly by interruptting the old signals and sending a different message to the brain. It creates what HeartMath calls a state of heart/brain coherence. Over time with practice, this new coherent state created by matching the heart rhythms to a higher functioning brain becomes the new familiar.
These Tools Need to be Practiced Daily to Change the Baseline!
HeartMath’s Trauma Project Director Dr. Jorina Elbers is a trauma sensitive Pediatric Neurologist and creator of the Resilient Heart for the HeartMath Institute, which I am certified in. She explained recently why talk therapy fails many of us in an anxious state. “When you are triggered, the cortex shuts down and the amygdala is running the show… Anything you did with practicing new thoughts (in therapy) go out the window, so we are left with the body and the amygdala.” The amygdala, contrary to a popular myth, is more than your fear center, it is your match and mismatch center, so if you have been in a fearful state because of some past event or trauma, it may signal fear. But on the other hand, if you have good experiences in the past that make you feel safe today, it could be signaling safety as well. Unfortunately, many of us are in a fear state now due to the pandemic, so we are seeing more and more cases of anxiety and depression.
There Is Good News!
The HeartMath practices and let me repeat the word PRACTICES are designed uniquely to change your baseline if you do them daily especially while learning the practices. Expect to spend fifteen to twenty minutes a day. That is not a huge time commitment, but it is extremely worthwhile particularly at the beginning. There are two important parts of these tools—the breath practice and the activating uplifting emotion component. If you do both you can make significant lasting changes in your physiology leading to better mental and physical health outcomes. “You are changing the messages to the brain every time you practice. You might feel a release immediately, but that does not mean you have shifted the baseline. Repetition of being in a coherent state changes the baseline,” according to Dr. McCraty.
These BioFeedback Tools Can Help!
Something that can help you make sure you are changing the baseline to a more coherent state is using HeartMath’s Inner Balance Biofeedback technology (click here to check it out and consider purchasing) which helps you track your coherence by color and score. In general, you are trying to be in the green and attain 300 points per day for six weeks to affect significant changes. This does not have to be accomplished in a single session.
Try the Following Practice for Changing Your Baseline!
One of the most research practices HeartMath has developed that has been shown to change the baseline and sustain these changes is the Heart Lock-In®. See the video below for an example I did for suffering in Ukraine. However you can radiate out feelings of care and compassion to anyone and back to yourself to get similar results! Just radiate out feelings of care and appreciation to someone or something and feel the change!
I practice HeartMath tools several times a day. First thing in the morning, during my yoga teaching, before I meet with a client and when I go to sleep at night. I also use tools before, during and after stressful situations. Let me know if I can help you change your baseline for reducing stress, anxiety and helping with depression, better health, better communication with others and better access to your higher thinking brain.