From childhood through our golden years, we all are bound to experience our share of challenges – mentally, physically and emotionally. Life’s filled with them, and It doesn’t matter whether we are rich or poor, where we come from or what we believe. Personally or through our relationships, we all are touched by life’s challenges.
Early on, we develop ways to meet these challenges: A baby cries when it’s hungry; children do their chores so they can play; and through the years all of us learn to count on family and friends to help through tough times.
Managing and overcoming challenges like financial difficulties or disappointment in ourselves or others comes a little easier for those who have practiced emotional self-regulation. This is because practicing emotional energy regulation accumulates resilience, which helps prevent energy loss and enable us to recover more quickly from energy loss during life’s challenges.
The Need for Balance
Unbridled emotions often take people to a point at which life’s challenges simply overwhelm them. “Increasing resilience can help prevent as well as smooth out many of these emotional gridlocks,” HeartMath Institute Director of Research Dr. Rollin McCraty said. Yet, with resilience, like any desired state such as happiness, good health and creativity among others, we must take action and learn to create it. Likewise, increasing our resilience requires intention and practice, but it’s very doable, he said.
McCraty explains that one of the keys to overcoming life’s stresses and challenges is building resilience, which he describes as “the capacity to adapt successfully in the presence of risk and adversity.”*
Building Resilience Through Coherence and Positive Emotions
Researchers at HMI have found that a fast and effective way to build and store resilience is through what is known as coherence. HeartMath defines coherence as a state in which the heart, mind and emotions are balanced and operating in sync and the immune, hormonal and nervous systems function in energetic coordination.
Emotion refocusing is essential for achieving a coherent state.
Benefits of Coherence†
- Build resilience
- Significant improvement in brain function
- Increased ability to self-regulate
- 40% improvement in long-term memory
- 24% improvement in short-term memory
- Increased ability to focus
- Increased ability to process information
- Increased reaction times
- Higher test scores
- Improved ability to learn
Before you can bring your heart, mind, emotions and other internal systems into balance, you must override the stressors and negative attitudes that caused them to get out of sync.
One of the most common causes of imbalance is the destructive emotion of anger.
Effects of Negative Emotions†
- Reduced muscle mass
- Brain cell death
- Impaired memory
- Accelerated aging
- Impaired mental function
- Diminished performance
- Depleted energy reserves
Studies show the above are among the typical physical effects of anger: headache; tightening in the neck and shoulders; irregular breathing and heartbeat; reduced concentration at work, school or home; problems sleeping. When you are angry for more than a few moments and are unable to step back, you are sending a message to your internal systems that your anger is in control. Now you are in a state of incoherence.
† Based on HeartMath Institute and independent studies.
By practicing easily learned heart-breathing and emotion-refocusing techniques to replace negative emotions with positive ones like care, compassion, courage and love, virtually anyone can learn to enter a coherent state. Almost immediately upon becoming coherent, studies show, you will begin accruing an array of mental, physical and emotional benefits.
Participants in numerous HeartMath studies within the educational, law enforcement, health-care, corporate and military sectors have discovered they have the ability to diffuse and self-regulate powerful emotions like anger, anxiety or fear. They practiced HeartMath’s refocusing techniques and used its emWave technology to learn how to replace their negative emotions with positive ones, in some cases recalling a special place or pleasant experience.
When you perform the simple exercise of refocusing emotions, you become “energetically centered and coherent,” Dr. McCraty explains. “This increases mental and emotional flex and your capacity to be in charge of yourself… Sitting quietly in coherence for a few minutes brings your physical, mental and emotional systems into synergistic alignment. This accumulates resilience, helps prevent energy drain and promotes easier recovery from physical, mental or emotional stressors.”
* Garmezy, 1985; Luthar, 2003; Olsson, Bond, Burns, Vella-Brodrick, & Sawyer, 2003.
Portions of this article are from the hourlong webinar, Perspectives on Resilience in These Changing Times. The video may be purchased in the HeartMath store by clicking on the title or you may accept it as one of the many gifts you’ll receive when you Become a Member of the HeartMath Institute.