THE BLOG
12/17/2012 11:57 am ET Updated Feb 16, 2013

Surefire Stress Relief, Part 7: Giving From the Heart

By Deborah Rozman

Even with the best of intentions, at holiday time we can fall into a mechanical default mode of making our lists, decorating and baking as a chore, rushing around and shopping joylessly. When the experience of the season feels like a task-oriented mental function, or even a stress frenzy, we lose out on all the potential joy of it. Half the gift of giving is in feeling the love that inspired it.

No matter which tradition you may follow, more than likely its meaning is related to renewal of spirit, connection and love -- qualities of the heart. The holidays are a time for us to connect with our hearts as we celebrate hope and joy. When we're stressed and cut off from the heart, stuck in our heads with things to do, it actually creates a strain on the heart. If we miss the spirit of the holidays, that takes a toll on the body, too.

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I think it's worth revisiting what it actually means to "give from the heart." It's about opening our heart and feeling the qualities that create a sense of fulfillment. As the giver, the gift we offer comes back to us twofold: The genuine act of giving feels good, and we also receive feel-good feelings from the energies of those who receive our gift. It's fun and joyful! Acts of the heart can be many different things -- a surprise gift that's just what they want, a kind word, an unrushed visit, a thank-you to a frazzled store clerk, a thoughtfully written card, a beaming smile. Last weekend, I picked out gifts for my great-niece and -nephew, and choosing their gifts warmed my heart. They're going to love what I got them and I am relishing in the anticipation as well, so there's the double reward.

The other day I was leading a seminar and my students asked me what to do when they feel so rushed and over-stretched during the holidays. I told them they already have the HeartMath tools they need, so use them to make giving from the heart more important than thinking they're tied to all their tasks. When I make using these tools my first priority, I create time because I'm in a flow.

Don't let your inner Scrooge short-change what should be one of the happiest times of the year. Make an inner decision -- a heart commitment -- that you're going to do things differently this year. When you know you need to re-center to get back in the holiday spirit and be able to give from a genuine heart, try this:

  1. Use HeartMath's Quick Coherence technique. When you get to step three, continue to breathe through the area of your heart.
  2. As you do so, recall a time when you felt good inside. This could be a feeling of appreciation or care toward a special person or a pet, a place you enjoyed, or an activity that was fun. Allow yourself to feel this good feeling of appreciation or care. If you can't feel anything, it's okay. Just have an attitude of appreciation, care, compassion or other positive attitude.
  3. Once you've shifted to a positive feeling or attitude, try to sustain the attitude by sending or radiating feelings of appreciation or care to yourself and others. This benefits them and especially helps recharge and balance your own system. You can also send care and heart energy to the planet and to your highest intentions.

If you take nothing else from this article, decide that you're not going to do anything this holiday season unless you're in your heart.

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Then you can see the possibilities and your energy isn't scattered. Life becomes more intuitive and you become a gift to yourself and those around you. Make it a practice to add a little of your spirit of the heart wherever you go -- your holiday gift to the world. I really enjoy this time of year because of that practice. I refuse to get caught up in the momentum of stressed-out people. Instead, I try to send a warm heart feeling out like a radio wave. Good vibes affect those around us just like bad vibes do. They nourish you and they nourish others around you. You add to the harmony of others. If that's not giving from the heart, what is?

HeartMath practices, such as the above, are used by mental health professionals to help people get their system into heart coherence, an optimal state in which the heart, mind and emotions are operating in sync and balanced. As people activate their hearts to get in sync, they have more capacity to hear their intuition, which helps guide them to shift perspectives, so forgiving and releasing the past become possible. Using HeartMath's emWave® technology before talking about a problem can also help.

Download HeartMath's free De-Stress Kit for more ways to feel better fast.

debbie Deborah Rozman, Ph.D., is president and CEO of HeartMath LLC, located in Boulder Creek, California. HeartMath provides scientifically-validated and market-validated tools and technologies that activate the intelligence and power of the heart to dramatically reduce stress while empowering health, performance and behavioral change in individuals and organizations. HeartMath's award winning emWave® technologies monitor and provide real time feedback on heart rhythm (HRV) coherence levels, an important indicator of mental and emotional state. HeartMath also offers training and certification programs for organizations, health professionals and coaches, and a self-paced online personal development program called HeartMastery for individuals.

Dr. Rozman has been a psychologist in research and practice, entrepreneur and business executive for over 30 years. She was founding executive director of the Institute of HeartMath, and now serves on the Institute's Scientific Advisory Board and Global Coherence Initiative Steering Committee. She is co-author with HeartMath founder Doc Childre of the Transforming series of books (New Harbinger Publications): Transforming Anger, Transforming Stress, Transforming Anxiety and Transforming Depression. She is a key spokesperson on heart intelligence and the role of the heart in stress management, performance and wellness.

For more by HeartMath, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.

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