By: Sarah Grace Powers – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
Most of the information out there on increasing longevity and/or feeling youthful is centered around healthy eating, optimal exercise, ideal skincare regimes, and what herbs or supplements can slow the inevitable physical deterioration that comes with the passing of years.
And a lot of that information is totally useful and beneficial—although you’ll find many contradictory opinions, and new discoveries often negate what was understood as gospel truth for decades. (The fat-free craze that raged throughout the 90s and beyond, for example, left many people depleted of essential nutrients particularly for brain health.)
It can be a bit of a chore to sift through all the conflicting ‘expert’ info on staying healthy and young, and ultimately it comes down to listening to the messages from your own body about which foods and other lifestyle factors are supporting your particular biology and which are doing the opposite.
Yet, there’s another important factor that plays a key role in “anti-aging” (a term I dislike but sometimes use anyway). There’s a simple way to look and feel younger than your biological years might represent, as well as to get a chance for more of those years in this body. It’s something that every one of us has access to and is absolutely free, although few of us make the time to take advantage of it.
It’s all about what we do with our emotions.
Why Emotions Affect Aging
After all, it’s somewhat intuitive. We all know that if someone is constantly worrying or feeling bitter and judgmental it eventually shows up on their face. And it turns out that unmanaged and unprocessed emotions have to go somewhere. And where they go is straight into key organs of your body where they contribute to deterioration and dysfunction.
I learned about this recently from Gregg Braden—who you can look up for a much more scientific and well-researched perspective. I saw him speak about a month ago at a seminar, and he discussed this topic of longevity extensively, showing us heart rate experiments to demonstrate his points.
He explained that our bodies create specific molecules when emotions arise and that these molecules look for places to land. Emotions are literally cellular signals that get translated through bodies to physical reality.
Candace Pert was the first to extensively research this ‘chemistry of emotion’, and her 1999 book Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine was groundbreaking for its time. In it, she explained her pioneering research on how the chemicals inside our bodies form a dynamic information network, linking mind and body, and this idea of emotions as cellular signals.
So, it behooves us to pay attention to how we process our fear, our anger, our anxiety, and other not-so-pleasant emotions.
Well, you might be saying, that’s all well and good. But how the heck am I supposed to just turn a negative emotion off? When something bad happens, of course, I’m going to feel angry or sad or anxious.
And that is certainly true. Experiencing the so-called ‘negative’ emotions is part of the being human.
AND, we have a choice in what we do with that emotion once it arises. And we have a choice about whether or not engage in practices that minimize knee-jerk negative emotional reactions to external circumstances that are beyond our control.
One ‘age more quickly’ choice involves stuffing the emotion away, by talking yourself out of it and pretending it doesn’t exist. There it goes down into your body, to be stored in some organ where its toxicity can fester. (Common organs for women to store unprocessed emotion are lungs, breast, ovaries, uterus, and thyroid, according to Braden.)
Another ‘feel old fast’ choice is to stoke that anger, hurt, resentment and other ‘negative’ emotions with lots and lots of unhelpful thoughts that make them grow and get bigger and more painful. It can often seem like these thoughts are uncontrollable. And yet, our own thoughts are one of the very few things in this world that we DO have control over.
During his presentation, Braden showed slides of women he’d met in his extensive travels who were living with health and vitality well past 100 years old! He asked each of these women what their secret was. Their answer? Always some version of ‘feeling compassion every day’ (a Tibetan nun), “feeling my love for my family,” etc.
Despite the fact that many of them had endured extremely adverse life circumstances, these centenarians all shared a common thread. And that was about tuning into positive feelings of love, compassion, and joy.
THAT, my friend, is the #1 key to staying young and living longer!
The Heart-Brain Connection
The next obvious question is, how – in this crazy modern world – can we attune ourselves to emotions of love and compassion more often than we are hooked into stress, fear, anxiety and the like?
There are many answers to this question, and many practices that can support you in shifting your emotional state. Some of them are basically the same ones I described to take you out of the fight or flight stress response in last week’s article.
One caveat: I want to acknowledge that many so-called ‘negative’ emotions arise for a reason, and they need to be felt and processed—which can almost always be done within a couple of minutes if you skip the aforementioned temptation to think about all the reasons why you feel bad. But that’s really a whole different discussion.
Braden, who has been involved in research around the heart-brain connection for several years, recommends a specific practice (that can only take three minutes!) called Heart Brain Coherence to teach your body to spend more time in a positive emotional state. This technique changes the frequency of the electrical waves between the heart and the brain from crazy and incoherent, to calm and coherent.
While modern-day science can now explain this electrical relationship between the heart and the brain, many spiritual traditions have described this relationship for eons.
If you have three minutes and some willingness, you can begin your longevity practice today. According to Braden, just three minutes of heart/brain coherence breathing can decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels by 23 percent and increase DHEA (youth hormone) levels by 100 percent!
We did this together (the entire audience of about 3000), and let me tell you all that heart-brain coherence literally brought me to tears of joy!
Here’s how to do it:
Try Heart Brain Coherence Breathing
Sit quietly in a comfortable spot if possible. Shift your focus into the area of your heart, sometimes it helps to place a hand over that area Begin to breathe a little more slowly than usual imagining that your breath is coming from your heart. If it helps, do a slow mental count of 5 for your inhale, a short hold, and a slow count of 5 for your exhale.
This step alone, even for 30-60 seconds is a wonderful way to calm yourself in a moment of overwhelm or upset As you slow your breathing, you are sending a signal to your body in general, and your heart specifically, that you are in a place that is safe and it’s okay to turn your attention inward.
Continue with your slow breathing while you tune into a regenerative feeling such as love, appreciation, caring or compassion. This step can be a little trickier because it’s important that you are FEELING it in your heart, rather than THINKING about it in your head. You might start by bringing to mind a heartwarming movie, a person or pet you care deeply for, or a love-filled memory.
As you remember or imagine this, tune back into your heart and the feeling you are re-experiencing. You want to first create the feeling, to the best of your ability, and then stay connected to and embrace the feeling as best you can.
You will maintain the optimal conversation and coherence between your heart and your brain if you keep your full attention tuned into and focused on this regenerative feeling for about 3 minutes.
This practice is like a mini-meditation, and in my own experimentation with it I’ve noticed a tendency to lose focus and allow my mind to wander. And—just like in meditation I just gently turn my attention back to my heart and to breathing the caring feeling in and out through my heart.
That’s it! Three minutes a day can help you feel and BE younger. Plus, you’ll feel better in general!
Sarah Grace Powers is a certified life coach and EFT Practitioner. She is a ‘dream resuscitator’, helping clients rediscover their passions and reinvent themselves no matter what their age or circumstance. In her previous career, she owned and operated an herb shop and has practiced holistic living for over three decades. Find her at sarahgracecoach.com
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