Mental health has recently become a much more prominent and openly discussed topic, which is a positive development. More people are acknowledging the importance of discussing and taking care of our mental well-being. There is also a growing compassion for those suffering from mental health conditions.
Traditionally, when people refer to mental health, they tend to focus on the brain. However, we now know that the heart plays a key role in our emotional and mental health. The term “mental health” includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. All of these areas affect how we think, feel, and act and help determine how well we’re able to handle stressful challenges and events, make decisions, and maintain healthy relationships.
Since the early ‘90s, the HeartMath Institute has been conducting research on the role of the heart, particularly on heart coherence and its potential to improve emotional and mental well-being. HeartMath Institute researchers identified this physiological state called heart coherence, which is a type of coherence that occurs when our body’s systems — our breathing, heart rhythms, brain rhythms, and hormonal response —are in sync with each other.
This groundbreaking finding has helped define the connection between our emotions and the brain, heart, and nervous system, offering an important perspective on our mental and emotional experiences. Today, we’re witnessing a growing interest in this area, with numerous researchers exploring the effects of heart coherence on individuals suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, and many other areas, as evidenced by the thousands of published research studies available on Google Scholar. This recognition of heart coherence is a hopeful development in the world of mental health and emotional self-regulation.
When we’re in a state of coherence, the heart, brain, and nervous system work together in harmony — people feel calmer, balanced, more focused, and think more clearly. As many research studies have shown, when we gain more skill in intentionally generating a state of heart coherence, our ability to self-regulate our mental and emotional states is greatly enhanced. Learn more about heart coherence.
One straightforward method for improving heart rhythm coherence is the Quick Coherence® technique, which involves a one-minute exercise that combines heart-focused breathing and emotion shifting. It’s an excellent technique to begin with, and you can enhance your capacity to recover from challenging and stressful circumstances by practicing it a few times a day. Give it a try, and become your own self-scientist, discovering the benefits of this simple yet effective self-regulation technique.
Quick Coherence® Technique
Step 1: Focus your attention on the area of the heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual. Find an easy rhythm that’s comfortable.
Suggestion: Inhale for five seconds and exhale for five seconds (or whatever rhythm is comfortable). Putting your attention around the heart area helps you center and get coherent.
Step 2: As you continue heart-focused breathing, make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling, such as appreciation or care for someone or something in your life.
Suggestion: Try to re-experience the feeling you have for someone you love, a pet, a time in nature or a special place, an accomplishment, etc., or focus on a feeling of calm or ease.
The Quick Coherence® technique was developed by and is a registered trademark of HeartMath.