hand on heart Aisling Larkin

Hand on Heart

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where without even thinking you place your hand on your heart ? 

Maybe you got some bad news, your worried about some one else, you have a stressful situation on the horizon. 

As part of mindfulness and mindful eating a lot of personal development work in the area of self compassion, kindness and self care is essential. 

Placing your hand on your heart can become a simple and involuntary technique which allows you to rewire your brain and bring about a feeling of calm and safety when you are overwhelmed. 

hand on heart mindfulness

It is a technique from a school of thought called “self-directed neuroplasticity”.

By placing your hand on your heart you can create an inner sense of calm, a feeling of safety and love by releasing oxytocin.  Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and a hormone that is produced in the hypothalamus of the brain and has been scientifically linked to have an impact on emotional, cognitive, and social behaviours. We often associate oxytocin with childbirth, sex and bonding actions but there are new research findings which associate it with creating feelings of calm and relaxation, reducing anxiety, stress and even addictions and cravings. 

The hormone has been described as “an important component of a complex neurochemical system that allows the body to adapt to highly emotive situations.”

Oxytocin is responsible for a “calm and connect” response in the body. It is the brain’s direct and immediate antidote to the stress hormone cortisol. Oxytocin is the neuro-chemical basis in our body for the felt sense of safety and trust, of connection and belonging, which reassures us “everything is OK; everything is going to be OK.” 

Numerous studies have investigated the neurobiological processes of the fight-or-flight response, however just as dynamic and valuable is this calm and connection system associated with trust, safety, friendliness and curiosity.

Placing your hand on your heart can become an association or an action you do to trigger the brain. This process of placing your hand on your heart is considered a learned safety association. Physical contact is at the heart of how we “connect and calm”, so it should come as no real surprise that  touch can accomplish many of the same things as oxytocin and can even trigger it’s release.

One of the simplest ways to release oxytocin and calm down stress is through safe touch and warmth.  Placing your hand on your heart is considered a safe touch action and even from ourselves it acts like a trigger to release oxytocin and can help bring our entire body back into a state of calm and trust.

It can help us to bring an awareness to the present moment and allow our body to process and accept the messages that are going to our brain. It can bring about an inner balance we need in that moment to cope.

Exercise and meditation are recognised to effect the body in a similar way to oxytocin but it is not yet scientifically proven that they actually affect levels in the body. They do work to calm the body and mind. Through the apparent stillness of meditation, an enormous amount of  activity is taking place. Our internal systems and conceptions help the body to heal and grow. It nourishes and creates energy, storing it up and gets it ready for use later. When our body and mind are calm we have greater access and connection to our internal resources. Our ability to cope, be calm and solve problems all increase when the stress dissipates. 

Fortunately, we are learning from neuroscience how to activate the release of oxytocin any time we need to in our lives. A healing self touch through placing our hand on our heart can activate the release of oxytocin, calm down our stress response, and return to in inner equilibrium by connecting, or remembering connections with others that made us feel safe.

Experiencing and later visualising previous moments of feeling safe and loved, activates the release of oxytocin in the brain. We can intentionally change our neurochemistry to in turn change our physiological state by using simple actions of visualisation and placing our hands on our heart. 

How to bring a little calm and kindness to your soul when you need it most:

  • Begin by placing your hand on your heart, feeling the warmth of your own touch. 
  • Use Conscious Breathing – breathe gently and deeply into your hearts centre by taking a few, deep, slow breaths. Breathe in any sense of goodness, safety, trust, acceptance and ease you can muster.  Breath a sense of calm and peace into your heart’s centre. 
  • Breathe in a sense of contentment, wellbeing, a sense of kindness for yourself and gratitude for others. Slowly, gently breathing in qualities of self care and self love in to your heart. 
  • When you feel steady and content with this, call to mind a moment where you felt unconditional love from someone. Remember feeling that warmth, that glow, that feeling of security and safety. It can be your partner, a parent, your child, a dear friend, a trusted advisor, a colleague or neighbour, a spiritual figure, a pet. 
  • Remember this moment when you felt seen, accepted, loved and even cherished.
  • Visualisation: As you remember this feeling of safety and love with this person, see if you can sense in your body the positive feelings and sensations that come up with that memory. Really savour this feeling of warmth, safety, trust and love in your body. Take a moment to allow that feeling to become real with your body.
  • Positive Self – Talk : After you have taken a few moments to absorb the feeling of your hand on your heart bring an awareness back to the situation . Remind yourself this is just a moment in time, You are now present in that moment, feeling these emotions. Feel them and then tell yourself thesis transient and it will pass. Things will change and evolve. Do not let negative fear based voices get in the way of your own self kindness. 
  • Practice self-compassion. Your thoughts make a difference. Be kind to yourself whenever possible — avoid beating yourself up. Remember to show yourself compassion when you’re stressed or emotionally distraught. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones enhances your well-being.
  • When that overwhelming feeling has passed and a gentle sense of calm is steady, allow it to engulf and surround you for about 30 seconds. Savour this and keep going. 

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