One simple technique from The HeartMath Institute to elevate your emotional baseline for the long-term
We all have emotional baselines — a general set of attitudes that we carry around throughout life.
Some people tend to go through their days with an upbeat mood, navigating through difficulties with ease. Others find things to complain about even after winning the lottery on a sunny day while sipping a pina colada.
While many people still believe that our general attitudes can’t be changed, the power of neuroplasticity shows otherwise.
Not only do we have the ability to consciously shift our negative emotions to positive ones as they arise, but we can also train ourselves to elevate our long-term emotional baselines.
This allows us to face challenges in our lives with more resilience and to find more joy amidst our daily routines.
This article is a continuation of my Science of the Heart series, where I help you understand how using the science behind the heart-brain connection can help improve your well-being. All the information contained in these articles comes directly from The Heart Math Institute’s video course “Heart Math Experience” which they are currently offering for free on their website.
YOUR EMOTIONS TRANSLATE INTO BIOCHEMICALS
Many of us go through life stuck on an emotional loop — in a certain emotional baseline. If we tend to have a pessimistic outlook on life, then no matter how much the outside circumstances improve, we won’t feel happy. Relying on external resources for happiness only results in a short-term boost of dopamine. It does not address the cause of our problems.
We have the ability to choose our emotions and to step out of the victim role.
While no emotions are intrinsically good or bad, some add quality to our lives and renew us (regenerative) while others rob us of our mental and physical well-being (depleting).
When we make an emotional shift from a negative state to a positive one (sadness to joy; anger to calm), at least 1400 biochemical changes take place. These hormonal changes affect the body for hours!
Depleting emotions release excessive amounts of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline into our system. This depresses the immune system and slows down healing and maintenance functions.
Regenerative emotions release hormones that increase our resilience and recharge our inner batteries, such as anti-aging hormone DHEA and the love hormone oxytocin.
We can learn to move from depletion to regeneration by activating the power of the heart.
MOVING FROM DEPLETING TO REGENERATIVE EMOTIONS
Our emotions shape our reality and the decisions we make. Being aware of their power allows us to take batter charge of them. With practice, we can learn how to manage our emotions more consciously.
Think of your emotions as your internal weather. Imagine there are four quadrants on your “internal weather report.” The two left quadrants are negative/depleting emotions. The two right quadrants symbolize positive/regenerative emotions. The top quadrant emotions are ones that cause strong feelings. The bottom quadrant emotions are more neutral.
Image from www.heartmath.com
Think about how often you spend in each quadrant throughout your day and your life. What is your emotional baseline? Does your inner weather tend to be stormy, cloudy, calm, or sunny on most days? Do you see any certain patterns in how you experience your emotions? Are there any particular triggers that consistently cause shifts in your internal weather? How would it feel if you could experience more of your life on the right side of your weather intelligence report?
ONE SIMPLE TOOL: THE ATTITUDE BREATHING TECHNIQUE
This is one of HeartMath’s tools to help you move from depleting to regenerative emotions more consistently as you replace negative attitudes with ones that are more effective and energy-saving.
Observe What You Are Feeling Recognize the feeling or attitude you want to change.
Identify a Replacement Attitude How would you rather feel? What’s the attitude you’d like to replace your current attitude with? For example, if you feel Stress, you may want to focus on Calm. If you feel Judgemental, you may want to focus on Compassion.
Heart-Focused Breathing Focus your attention in the area of your heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your chest area, breathing a little slower than usual.
Breathe in New Attitude or Feeling Imagine breathing the replacement attitude (calm, compassion etc.) into your heart. Allow it to fill your body as you remember what it feels like to feel that emotion.
Anchor and Maintain Bring your focus on this attitude whenever needed — when a challenge arises and you start experiencing that negative emotion again. Or use Attitude Breathing on the go to replenish your energy and focus throughout the day.
ELEVATE YOUR EMOTIONAL BASELINE FOR THE LONG-HAUL
Make it a daily practice to anchor yourself in a more positive attitude, even if only for a couple minutes a day. It is worth committing to a single practice that doesn’t take time but is effective for you.
The more often you use this tool, the more you will see the benefits. The heart-brain communication pathway will help you release negative emotional patterns stored in the amygdala, freeing up energy to allow for new perceptions and help you uncover a new you.
It takes about 6 weeks to anchor in a new habit and create a new neural pattern.
Get in the habit of practicing this technique at least 1x day for the next 6 weeks and you will be on the way to creating a baseline shift in your attitudes and emotional responses to life.
My previous article in this series about the role of uplifting emotions on our well-being: