On our podcast ‘Tales That Tethr’, tethr Founder & CEO Matt Zerker interviews entrepreneurs, experts, thought leaders, and regular people about what is means to be a man, the challenges that modern men face, and how to overcome challenges and live life in a more connected and authentic way.
It’s easy to forget just how much real connection we as human beings, and especially as men, really need. Connection to others and perhaps more importantly, connection to ourselves is vital.
The problem: The external focus today’s society imposes on us, the outward need to achieve, to be perceived in a certain way, and to collect symbols of status, symbols whose only purpose is to strengthen what we believe others want or need to see in order for us to be of value. All this does nothing except cause anxiety, stress and depression. Sadly, as you’ll have seen from other articles on tethr, this can lead to suicide.
Part of the solution: One powerful way to flip the script here is by reconnecting with our hearts. I realize for some people this may be challenging to comprehend, after all, the heart is simply an organ that pumps blood around our bodies, right? You’re right, and yet it’s so much more.
The heart, YOUR heart, is the key to your connection to self and others. It regulates your nervous system, it allows your brain to function optimally, it changes the energetic frequency your body carries, and it can create coherence, harmony and balance within relationships, friendship groups, the workplace and amongst total strangers. How amazing is that!
The benefits of heart connection
Since I began deeply connecting with my own heart and being heart-directed in my interactions with others, I’ve experienced greater clarity around everything, I’ve felt more, and been able to remain balanced when confronted with stressful situations (or people).
Perhaps the greatest gift: I’ve been able to connect so much more deeply, authentically, and quickly with others. I’ve felt seen, heard and appreciated. Which is all we really want, right? To be truly seen and heard for who we are and not who we pretend to be simply to be accepted by society’s misguided image of what should be. The quickest and easiest way to achieve coherence of this kind is through heart-focused breathing, a process researched and developed by the HeartMath Institute.
The science part
The heart, as well as regulating your autonomic nervous system, communicates with the brain. In the HeartMath Institute's research they discovered that erratic heart rate variability (HRV) is an indicator of stress and anxiety. You see when your HRV is erratic the message it sends to the brain is one of danger, it bypasses the thalamus and prefrontal cortex and if necessary, the amygdala, which would typically allow us to make balanced judgements and think clearly. Instead, the message heads straight to the amygdala - which controls our fight or flight response increasing our fear, and anxiety, reducing our focus and our capacity to think clearly and creatively, in turn creating more of the same.
Heart-focused breathing techniques allow us to quickly and easily create coherence in our heart, smoothing out the HRV which in turn sends a new message to the brain, one that goes first to the thalamus and prefrontal cortex allowing us to see things more clearly and think more rationally.
Simultaneously, our bodies begin to reduce the levels of cortisol being produced and increase DHEA and Oxytocin, helping us feel calmer and more connected. When you feel yourself getting anxious or stressed or you simply feel disconnected from yourself, heart-focused breathing definitely helps. I’ll share some guidance below and recommend giving it a go.
Greater connection to others even when you’re apart
So, that’s connection to and balance restored within yourself taken care of, what about the impact on groups?
The electromagnetic field your heart emits is 100 times stronger than that of the brain and can be measured several feet away from your body. Quite simply that means that the level of coherence you experience can be felt by those around you.
When you are coherent or balanced your hearts electromagnetic field influences those around you. You really can share your heart.This even works remotely, something I’ve had my own personal experience of via Zoom where in one instance the other person, thousands of miles away felt me, felt a calmness and was moved to tears (of joy I might add) by the experience.
WeAddHeart is a global movement of facilitated groups who practice heart-focused breathing together and who are able collectively to feel deeply connected to one another, to an awareness of being.This has all been measured and recorded, so there’s plenty of sciencey stuff to back it up. Deepened states of connection like these allow for greater openness and honesty which in turn allow us to be seen, to be heard and in doing so be healed. Men this one's for you.
How to perform basic heart-focused breathing
- Sit comfortably. You may close your eyes or keep them open- this practice is designed to be used anywhere - on the train, even in a meeting with your boss (he’ll never know)
- Shift your attention and focus to your heart or chest area. It may help to place your hand on your heart.
- Take a few deep, calm and comfortable breaths. Ideally in and out through your nose.
- Now imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest. Breathe deeply and comfortably and try to make the breath nice and balanced, that is the same length of time in, as out. Perhaps begin with account of 5 in and 5 out.
- Relax your belly so it can expand and contract easily with each breath. Try to get your breath as smooth and sustained as possible.
- Continue this for as long as you wish.
I recommend using this practice intentionally for 10-20 minutes per day and anytime you feel stressed, anxious or out of balance. While there are other more advanced heart-focused breathing techniques which can be used in other more specific situations, this simple practice will make a difference.
Pete Craig is a trusted advisor and confidant to men in leadership positions where as an intuitive guide, HeartMath Coach and Heart Circle Facilitator he helps them gain clarity, release trauma and reconnect deeply with themselves so they can have greater positive impact on the world around them.