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Take Valentine's Day to Heart

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

While our mind might be dreaming of an exquisite candle-light dinner with our loved one(s), sharing a heart-shaped chocolate cake and a glas of champagne, our heart might be pining for something else.... Maybe a high 5 or a thought of genuine appreciation for our 24/7 hard-working organ? It is pumping blood with oxygen and nutrients to every tissue and organ in our body, and eliminates carbon dioxide. With on average more than 100.000 beats per day, into approximately 100.000 km of blood vessels (2,5 times around the world!!), 5 liter of blood per minute 💗!

That's already pretty amazing, right? Enough reason to make Februari the 'Heart awareness' month. But there is even more to say. Our heart possesses a level of intelligence we are only beginning to understand. Most people don’t know this, but the heart can feel, think, and decide for itself based on certain stimuli. It has around 40,000 neurons and a whole network of neurotransmitters with very specific functions, closely linked to the brain. There is more communication from the heart to the brain than the other way around!

The heart's powerful electromagnetic field has been shown to reach about three feet outside of the physical body and can be detected in another person sitting nearby via an electrocardiogram (ECG). What might explain why we can "feel" or sense another person’s presence and emotional state independent of body language or other factors. Evidence shows the heart also plays a greater role in our mental, emotional and physical processes than previously thought. Emotions like love – as well as its manifestation through affection, care and compassion– come from this exceptional complex of cells, nerves, energy, and electricity that make up who we are. There is a reason why the heart is the symbol of love, romance and true connections.

Thanks to the 2 decades of research of the HeartMath Institute we have learned that intentionally generating these positive emotions (as a daily practice) brings our heart in a state of coherence. When we increase our heart’s harmony, the brain rhythm along with the respiratory and blood pressure rhythm entrain with the heart rhythm. This is the optimal state for vibrant health and human functioning. It improves the emotional regulation of our brain, generates a calm focus and expands our view of options (hence helps us making better decisions). We might need more of that in our crazy world!

But if we are under stress or feel emotions of anger and frustration, our heartbeat shows up in a series of jagged and erratic lines. This is called an incoherent heart rhythm pattern. This means that the 2 branches of our autonomic nervous system (ANS) are out of sync. Like driving a car and having one foot on the gas (sympathetic NS, 'fight & flight') and the other on the brake (parasympathetic NS, or 'rest & digest') simultaneously. Health studies have proved that intense anger has an adverse effect on the heart, increasing the risk of a heart attack by five times. Intense grief even more.

So our heart is so much more than just the classic pump that makes blood circulation possible; together with the brain it also gives life to what ultimately makes us human: emotions. May you find stillness and generate love as a way to connect harmoniously with your loved ones and your environment. That's my wish for you on this Valentine's Day ❤️

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