THE BLOG
11/05/2012 08:02 am ET Updated Jan 05, 2013

Surefire Stress Relief, Part 1: Breathing Through Your Heart

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Written by Deborah Rozman

How different would your life be if you could intentionally shift yourself out of tension and anxiety into a relaxed, clear-minded state in just 30 seconds?

A couple of weeks ago, I got on a conference call about an investment opportunity in my company, HeartMath. The consultant on the call, who had been a CFO of two public companies, said it had been a strained morning for him. "I really need to chill," he admitted at the start of our call, so I offered to guide him virtually through our Heart-Focused Breathing technique as a way to help him de-stress. He agreed.

"Focus your attention on the area of your heart," I said. "Let go of whatever you've been thinking or doing. Pretend your breath is flowing in through the area of your heart and out through the area of your heart." I began to feel him settle down into breathing slowly and easily. After a pause, I continued: "Now, focus on someone or something in your life you really appreciate and feel gratitude for while continuing Heart-Focused Breathing."

Some 15 seconds later, he said, "Wow, I feel so different. This stuff really works." My investment adviser, who's been working with HeartMath for nearly a decade, was also on the line. She'd heard similar stories before, but this was the first time she'd witnessed a senior executive in her own field make such an immediate change. She was so astonished at the impact that, at our next in-person meeting, she said, "If that technique can do that for him, this can change the world!" She's since become an even bigger believer and evangelist of our work.

Our research at HeartMath has shown that Heart-Focused Breathing can help people quickly reduce stress -- and in this day and age, quickly is the only way most people are willing to try. This technique may be used in everyday stress, anger, anxiety and emotional overload or in times of acute crisis, where it's especially helpful. It works because the exercise helps you change stress-producing attitudes and reset your stress set point. You are actually changing your heart rhythm pattern and calming your autonomic nervous system. By focusing on your heart, you're taking energy away from the undesirable emotions. You generate a positive attitude or feeling, which starts to shift the signal the heart sends the brain so the brain response is different. It changes your physiology to move into heart-brain coherence and alignment.

So if you find yourself feeling angry, mildly depressed, anxious or otherwise stressed, try this easy, free and quick technique for yourself to refuel your system:

Shift your attention to the area of your heart. Imagine your breath passing in and out through your heart area or the center of your chest as you slowly inhale and exhale. Breathe in an attitude of calm and balance, as if you were taking in an emotional tonic that takes off the rough edges. You can also try breathing in a feeling of gratitude or compassion -- or whatever attitude you find most soothing. As you shift into the positive feeling, notice when you feel the release. You will likely feel genuine appreciation or compassion and the former uncomfortable physical sensations replaced by comforting, relaxed ones.

This exercise can be done in a quiet place or while walking, jogging, or -- once you get familiar with it -- even participating in a conversation.

I use this technique whenever I notice I am stressed to reboot my inner computer. Then I come back into balance and have more clarity about my next steps.

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 stress, click here.

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