The Decision-Making Process
Decision-making is the reasoning process we use to select a course of action from among any number of possibilities that present themselves mentally or otherwise. Making a decision either can involve a period of deliberation or seemingly none at all. Friends, family and others, sometimes even complete strangers, will advise us to stop and think before making a decision and never do the first thing that comes into our heads. Contrast that with wisdom passed down through the ages recommending we go with our instincts or that we listen to our hearts.
Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882.
It turns out that our emotions are much more important in the decision-making process than previously thought. The HeartMath Institute has conducted more than 16 years of research and has compiled substantial data about the role of emotions and the brain in decision-making. Quite often the choices we regret are the products of unmanaged emotions, but when we allow calm and intuitive heart-based feelings to guide us the outcomes of our decisions are far more favorable.
When the Heart Decides
Researchers with HeartMath and other organizations believe intuitive feelings emanate from the heart. They have found evidence showing the human heart has an intuitive intelligence greater than science and medicine have historically believed. Even without our realizing it, the heart guides us in much of what we do, but often we allow our brains or our unmanaged emotions to take the lead role in our decision-making and later regret our choices.
We now know the heart has a powerful electromagnetic field and complex nervous system and circuitry that generate up to an estimated 60 times the electrical amplitude of the brain. The electromagnetic signal our heart rhythms produce can actually be measured in the brain waves of people around us.
We also know our heart-rhythm patterns say a lot about our emotional balance and the stress we are experiencing: The calmer we are the more regular our heart-rhythm patterns are, and the more stress we feel the more irregular the patterns are. Researchers at HeartMath and elsewhere have concluded the heart possesses its own organized intelligence network that enables it to act independently, learn, remember and produce feelings. Until recently it was believed only the brain was capable of these functions. Through years of studies involving thousands of people, researchers at HeartMath and elsewhere have shown when we intentionally experience positive feelings such as care and appreciation we can improve our heart-rhythm patterns. That means reduced stress, getting sick less frequently, thinking more clearly, even living longer. So go ahead, let your heart decide.
The Stress of Making Decisions
In today’s fast-paced, rapidly changing world, we’re expected to make countless decisions – quickly. The pressure to think and act quickly never seems to let up and the consequences of not keeping up are always hanging over our heads. No wonder stress levels are at all-time highs among Americans.
“An estimated 75% to 90% of visits to primary-care physicians are for stress-related problems.”
–American Institute of Stress
What do we get for all the stress… confusion, irritability, anxiety, anger, illness and more severely impacting effective decision-making. You can, however, control negative emotional responses – the primary causes of stress – thereby reducing your stress to manageable levels. The knowledge HeartMath has gained and the scientifically validated tools we have developed has aided thousands of people in many walks of life to master their emotions and begin making the kinds of decisions that improve the quality of their own and other people’s lives.
Life’s Big Decisions
Not all decisions are equal, and not all take the same toll on us. The big decisions take much more intellectual thought, clarity and focus. Weighty decisions are stressful enough, but if we put them off until later, we’re bargaining for the stress that comes with indecision and we don’t need any more stress.
HeartMath’s Freeze-Frame® Technique is so uniquely suited to managing the nagging of lesser day-to-day decisions and the “stress emergencies” of life’s big decisions that it’s taught in most HeartMath training programs for Fortune 100 companies, health-care organizations and school systems. Freeze-Frame is a multipurpose technique for reducing stress and emotional chaos and improving decision-making.
“The results of HeartMath interventions) speak for themselves. Our airline, Cathay Pacific, now prides itself on delivering an individual style of service, straight from the heart. This has resulted in consistently being rated as having the best in-flight service in the world.”
–Peter Buecking, Sales/Marketing Director, Cathay Pacific Airways
Buecking and many others with public- and private-sector organizations have learned coherent alignment of the heart and mind through HeartMath training. Employees at all levels gain greater ability to manage emotions, igniting the higher centers of the brain, sparking greater insight and better decision-making skills.
Researchers investigated the impact of HeartMath’s Inner Quality Management program on managers and staff within the California Personnel Retirement System’s Information Technology Services Division, which had recently initiated profound changes to meet the changing information services marketplace. Learning new technology skills proved to be challenging. The results suggested that by facilitating increased self-management of the participants’ mental and emotional turmoil, the program enhanced employees’ ability to defuse personal and organizational stress. Check out the HeartMath book From Chaos to Coherence for further details on the Inner Quality Management program.
A HeartMath TIP:
For most decisions, try the following to rapidly shift your emotional state by sending positive emotions through your system and opening up the pathways of communication between your heart and brain. With practice you can routinely achieve the clarity and “heart coherence” necessary for optimal heart-brain decision-making.
- Heart focus: Shift your attention to the area of your heart and breathe slowly and deeply.
- Heart breathing: Keep your focus in the heart by gently breathing – 5 seconds in and five seconds out – through the area of your heart – and do this two or three times.
- Heart feeling: Activate and sustain a genuine feeling of appreciation or care for someone or something in your life. Focus on the good heart feeling as you continue breathing through the area of your heart.
(Adapted from HeartMath’s acclaimed Quick Coherence™ technique which is included in the book, Transforming Stress.)
For more complex, life-changing decisions, we recommend the Freeze-Frame technique.
Benefits of Successful Decision-Making
- Less stress
- Emotional balance
- Time and resources used more efficiently
- Better communication and success at home, school, work and socially
- Fewer regrets
Tools For Effective Decision-Making
Inner Balance™ & emWave®: Regular use of these scientifically validated, stress-relief technologies has proven to be a vital tool in reducing anxiety, stress, anger, emotional chaos and boosting energy and vitality. The Inner Balance & emWave products are easy to use and noninvasive. They will help you achieve heart coherence – synchronization between the heart and brain – and reach your optimal physical, mental and emotional balance. When your emotions are in balance, you stop the energy drain and start the energy gain. Then, by practicing the easy-to-learn techniques you’ll receive with your HeartMath technologies only minutes a day will help you revitalize and re-energize your mind, body and spirit anytime, anywhere.
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Transforming Stress: The HeartMath Solution for Relieving Worry, Fatigue and Tension – Childre, Rozman, 2004. Learn more about the warning signs of chronic stress and what you should know about your “intelligent heart” and how it can help you immediately begin reducing the stress in your life. You’ll learn several key HeartMath tools and techniques, including the complete details of the Attitude Breathing® tool and step-by-step instructions on how and when to use it.
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