Sounds like a sappy love song, doesn’t it? It is indeed from a song—“Love Heals” from the soundtrack for RENT—but it may not be as sappy as it sounds.
Evidence supports the notion that positive and negative emotions alter the activity of the body’s physiological and psychological systems. In a 2005 study titled “Love Promotes Health,” researchers demonstrated that joyful activities such as love may activate areas in the brain responsible for emotion, attention, motivation and memory, and might reduce stress and have protective effects, even on the brain. The study concluded that pleasurable experiences might, therefore, be capable of stimulating health and well-being, of healing, and of facilitating beneficial motivation and behaviour. The authors of the study state that love might help to ensure the survival of individuals and the human species: “After all, love serves to enhance a sense of well-being and safety, using neurobiological means and physiological pathways for the support of social bonds, i.e., community.”
The Social Psychology program at the University of California, Los Angeles is investigating the neural and physiological processes associated with feeling social warmth and social rejection. Their evidence demonstrates that experiences of social pain and physical pain are processed in the same region of the brain. In her article “Broken hearts and broken bones: A neural perspective on the similarities between social and physical pain,” researcher Naomi Eisenberger notes that while there are clear differences between social and physical pain, “the fact that both types of pain share overlapping neurobiological and neural substrates suggests that there are meaningful similarities in the ways in which physical and social pain are experienced.” This revelation brings new meaning to the emotional and physical correlations of a broken heart.
At the HeartMath Institute, heart rate variability has been used to show how distinct heart rhythm patterns characterize different emotional states. For instance, in the HeartMath graph below, the heart rate patterns for frustration and appreciation reflect those typical of negative and positive emotions. Negative emotions lead to erratic and incoherent heart rate patterns that lead to less synchronization in the parasympathethic and sympathetic systems in the autonomic nervous system. A sustained, incoherent state taxes the nervous system and organs. On the other hand, positive emotions produce smooth, coherent heart rate patterns that reflect increased synchronization in the autonomic nervous system.
The strengthening of one’s overall coherence has been shown in many studies to improve objective physiological and psychological measures, including:
- immune system and autonomic system function and balance;
- reduction of bodily pain;
- significant reductions in depression, anxiety, anger, hostility, burnout and fatigue;
- increases in caring, contentment, gratitude, peacefulness and vitality;
- reduction of blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol; and,
- improvements in asthma.
In addition, early research results suggest an association between heart rhythm coherence and improved cognitive performance.
Build Coherence & Nurture Positive Emotions
“Love heals when you feel so small, like a grain of sand–like nothing at all.”
From Love Heals, RENT soundtrack
Love and other positive emotions help to bring your body into coherence, or balance, so that you can heal. When you feel physical or emotional pain, try as best as you can to send love and joy to your body instead of negative thoughts or emotions.
There are thousands of ways to increase coherence/balance and to strengthen positive emotions, and you’ll have to decide what works best for you. Here are a few suggestions:
- Check out the HeartMath Institute’s “Tools for Well-Being” that can help to reduce stress and to self-manage emotions: http://www.heartmath.org/free-services/tools-for-well-being/tools-for-well-being-home.html.
- Sending love to your body every day is super easy and will work wonders:
- Take a few minutes in bed at night or in the morning to give yourself a Love Massage: https://touchysubjects.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/gift-yourself-a-love-massage/.
- Send unconditional love to your body every day. Send breaths throughout your body while thinking, “Love to you, my body.” Do this for a minute or two, or as many times as you need. If you have pain in one area of your body, send extra breaths and love there.
- Open your heart every day:
- If you know about the heart chakra, open it once per day. You can also visualize bright green light in front of your heart, then expand the green light until it surrounds your entire being. Focus on the green light for a minute.
- If you aren’t familiar with chakras, do the following once a day: close your eyes and visualize a bright green ball of light appearing in front of your chest, then expand the green light until it surrounds your entire being. Focus on the green light for a minute.
- Strengthen your response by also feeling love in your heart or by remembering a time when you felt lots of love in your heart.
“Hold onto love and it will lead you home.”
From Love Heals, RENT soundtrack
 Esch, Tobias and Stefano, George B. “Love Promotes Health.” Neuroendocrinology Letters. 2005; 26(3):264–267. Accessed March 5, 2012.
 Eisenberger, N. I. (2012) “Broken hearts and broken bones: A neural perspective on the similarities between social and physical pain.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 42-47.
 McCraty, R. et al. The Coherent Heart: Heart–Brain Interactions, Psychophysiological Coherence, and the Emergence of System-Wide Order. Integral Review. December 2009, Vol. 5, No. 2.
Sources & Further Information
Eisenberger, N. I. (2012) “Broken hearts and broken bones: A neural perspective on the similarities between social and physical pain.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 42-47. Accessed March 1, 2012. http://web.mac.com/naomieisenberger/san/Naomi_Eisenberger_SAN_Papers_files/Eisenberger%282012%29CDPS.pdf
Esch, Tobias and Stefano, George B. “Love Promotes Health.” Neuroendocrinology Letters. 2005; 26(3):264–267. Accessed March 5, 2012. http://www.nel.edu/pdf_/26_3/260305A13_15990734_Esch–Stefano_.pdf
Healy, Melissa. “Pain and heartache are bound together in our brains.” Los Angeles Times online. Published March 29, 2011. Accessed March 1, 2012. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/29/news/la-heb-love-hurts-20110329
McCraty, R. et al. “The Coherent Heart: Heart–Brain Interactions, Psychophysiological Coherence, and the Emergence of System-Wide Order.” Integral Review. December 2009, Vol. 5, No. 2. Accessed March 12, 2012. http://www.heartmathbenelux.com/doc/McCratyeal_article_in_integral_review_2009.pdf
“Love Heals” – Listen to it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsZIjxCGEVM. Lyrics – accessed March 1, 2012: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/r/rent/love_heals.html
Szalavitz, Maia. “In the Brain, Broken Hearts Hurt Like Broken Bones.” Time Magazine (online). Published February 27, 2012. Accessed March 1, 2012. http://healthland.time.com/2012/02/27/in-the-brain-broken-hearts-hurt-like-broken-bones/
University of California, Los Angeles. Social Psychology program, Research. http://web.mac.com/naomieisenberger/san/Naomi_Eisenberger_SAN_Research.html
Explore Energy. No Boundaries. No Fear.
Touchy Subjects is owned and operated by Brenda Piquette. All information on the Touchy Subjects blog is copyright Brenda Piquette 2010 – 2012. Note: This information is provided for entertainment purposes only and should be verified for accuracy.