You heal anxiety with your heart not your head

If you know much about my work, you will know that I teach how acceptance, compassion, playfulness are qualities that heal anxiety.

Have you noticed that these all are qualities traditionally associated with the heart. The reality is that:

You heal anxiety with your heart not your head.

Your mind can help you manage anxiety quite well. Through the sheer mental effort of changing thought patterns or employing distraction techniques, anxiety can be kept under control but not truly healed. When it comes to long-term recovery that is where your heart plays a vital role.

I am not just speaking metaphorically when I talk about the heart healing anxiety. I mean it on a physical/neurological level too.

The heart is so much more than just a blood pump. There is a complex neurological system of communication between the heart and the head where information is been sent back and forth all the time.

Most people are not aware that in 1983, the heart was reclassified as a hormonal gland. The heart produces several important hormones several of which are responsible for reducing the stress response. One of those hormones is called atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) and its job is to reduce the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

Another hormone called oxytocin, commonly referred to as the “love” hormone” is also a powerful stress relieving hormone. When we hug or kiss a loved one, oxytocin levels go up. Moments of empathy and compassion stimulate the release of the hormone, bringing about an anti-stress response.

By adopting an attitude of compassionate acceptance towards your anxiety you trigger the secretion of these stress reducing hormones. This helps cools the stress response and enables your nervous system to relax.

When highly anxious, the anxious part of your brain is trapped in an anxiety loop of fear feeding more fear.

When you adopt attitude of complete acceptance, control is shifted back to the rational part of your brain and the anxiety loop is broken (even if its just for a few short minutes).

A bit like a tuning fork, acceptance, compassion, playfulness (qualities of the heart) help synchronize the mind and body together. With that synchronization comes a greater peace of mind.

I want to now share a simple but powerful exercise to amplify the healing power of your heart:

Heart Exercise


1.  
Start by taking some deep belly breaths.

Belly breaths are ones that lift your stomach instead of your chest.
Think if like you are breathing into down into your legs. Breathe in
until you feel full and hold it for a few seconds and then breathe out
slowly.

 

2.   As you are breathing in, I want you to imagine a warm smile
forming across your chest. It is a big warm smile that spreads up to
onto the lips on your face as you breathe in fully.

 

3.   Hold for a few seconds and then as you breathe out I want you to
have complete acceptance for any anxious sensation that you feel.
So for example you might think:

In breath: Smile (imagined and on your chest spreading up to your face)
Out breath: I accept and allow the anxious feeling in my stomach.

Or

In breath: Smile
Out breath: I  accept and allow this anxious feeling in my chest.

In breath: Smile
Out breath: I accept and allow the anxious thoughts in my mind.

 

4. As you do this exercise, become aware of the connection between your
head and your chest area. Imagine both areas are connected together by a chord.

 

You are going to continue the exercise for a minimum of five minutes. Anything shorter than five minutes will not get the desired stress reducing effect. (Of course please keep going with it for longer if you wish).

I know it’s really hard to smile when anxious but please try it for just 5 minutes and see how you feel.

The purpose of this exercise is to trigger a release of stress reducing hormones and create a better synchronization between your head and your heart.

The really great thing is that you can trigger the benefits of this Heart Exercise any time during the day, simply by smiling with your lips.

One smile will trigger the memory of the exercise and move you into a heart alignment in an instant.

Then anytime you are going about your day and feel a flash of anxiety, notice the anxiety and immediately smile.

Feel the smile on both your lips (and your chest). That will then trigger a calming response instead of an escalation of anxiety.

So if you think of nothing else

 

smile 😉

 

 

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