GUEST COLUMN: It’s good to be good
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Scientific research confirms that our state of mind can powerfully affect our physical health. Negative feelings, such as anger, resentment and depression can spell trouble for our physical health. But is the opposite true? Can positive emotions, such as joy and compassion, make an improvement in our physical health?
In the online document entitled, “Science of the Heart,” founder of the Institute of Heart Math, Doc Childre, writes that studies continue to illustrate the direct impact that emotions have on overall health. In this document, Childre writes, “positive feeling states can cause favorable changes in physiological and psychological well-being.”
When we begin to explore how positive emotions affect our health, a leading research center is the Institute of Heart Math, a non-profit organization that researches the effects of positive emotions on physiology, quality of life and performance. Future articles will highlight Heart Math research, with this article providing a brief overview of what we can do to improve our overall health by encouraging positive emotions.
“The human organism is a multi-dimensional information network of communicating subsystems in which mental, emotional and physiological systems are intertwined, creating a constant interplay of rhythmic input,” according to heartmath.org. And even though all the systems are vital, “the most powerful generator of these rhythmic patterns is the heart,” heartmath.org continues. The heart is a powerful entry point into this communication network that connects body, mind, emotion and spirit. Current research shows that this communication network works best when the body is in “coherence,” – harmonious functioning. Emotional coherence happens when we are experiencing positive emotions and physiological coherence creates good physical health.
Let’s first look at emotional coherence. This is achieved by experiencing positive emotions such as love, appreciation or compassion. When we are feeling these positive emotions, we are creating emotional coherence. During emotional coherence, the heart sends signals to the brain that influence immunological and neuroendocrine responses in a positive manner. Therefore, our physical health is influenced by positive emotions. One of the most profound ways of creating positive emotions such as love, appreciation and compassion is the practice of helping others.
Lana Christie McNally writes in her book, “The Tibetan Book of Meditation,” that the only way to be truly happy is to focus on the needs of others. She states in her book, “take care of others and your whole world will change for the better.” In May 2007, the Corporation for National and Community Service released an article entitled, “Volunteering Produces Health Benefits.” This article reviewed the results of more than 30 studies which suggested that volunteering can be good for your health. According to the article, people who volunteer enjoy longer lives, have a higher functional ability and lower rates of depression and heart disease.
So the next time you give someone a ride, call a friend who is ill, or volunteer for an organization, not only are you helping them, you are creating emotional and physical coherence for yourself, which helps make your life more productive, healthy and fulfilling.
– Rosemary Manning is a mind-body therapist in South Lake Tahoe and can be reached at http://www.tahoehealthtouch.com