That little thumper seen and heard in the ultrasounds of mothers-to-be is much more than a pump for the unborn baby’s blood. Research by the nonprofit Institute of HeartMath® (IHM) shows the heart can play an intricate role in how parents interact with their children from infancy until they go out into the world. As we remember and honor mothers this holiday, findings from IHM research lend credence to a universally held notion about a mother and child’s connection.
An IHM study showed that when a mother placed her attention on her infant, she became more sensitive to the subtle electromagnetic signals generated from the infant’s heart. The infant’s heart signal was clearly detected in the mother’s brainwaves, a revelation likely to cause parents and caregivers to wonder how much they might be interacting with their children. This and other findings by IHM researchers have contributed greatly to understanding the language of the heart and how it can be utilized to improve parenting strategies. (Read more about the mother-baby study in this IHM article.
- See Mother-Infant heart Chart next -
Mysteries of the Heart
It is not commonly known that a baby’s heart develops and begins beating in the fetus before the brain is formed. Or that the human heart possesses a complex energetic system that processes electromagnetic information that research shows can be detected up to three feet outside the body.
IHM’s research shows the heart produces 40 to 60 times more electrical amplitude than the brain. The heart acts like a director, and much of the rest of the human body follows its lead.
“The heart puts out a powerful, rhythmic signal that the brain responds to,”¯ IHM Director of Research Dr. Rollin McCraty has explained. “In a way, we could say that the heart and brain ‘talk’ to one another, and together they set the rhythms for the entire nervous system and body.”¯
The heart also sends signals about how we feel. As we experience emotions such as happiness, sadness, love and fear, that emotional information is encoded in signals from the heart and projected around us.
Emotions sometimes appear to affect our surroundings, much like in the saying, “You could cut the tension in the room with a knife.” That saying may have its roots in the stress signals our hearts project in tense situations. This could explain how, when a child or parent is facing a challenge, each is sensitive to what the other is feeling. It could also account for why mothers always know when their children are up to some mischief, or why we can detect the emotional vibes of people around us, especially those we love or care about like family or friends.
Up Next – We are what we feel
We Are What We Feel
Parents and caregivers know that being upset usually makes it harder to think clearly. That’s because when we are anxious, afraid, worried, frustrated or upset, our heart rhythms are uneven and incoherent. Negative emotions register in the brain and body as stress and create incoherence.
A negative emotion immediately triggers a chain reaction in the body: constricted blood vessels, higher blood pressure, cortical inhibition, immune-system suppression and compromised hormone balance among other effects.
On the other hand, heartfelt positive emotions such as love, care, appreciation and compassion have the opposite effect. Positive emotions produce smooth and coherent heart rhythms, making it easier to think clearly and make good decisions, as well as improving health.
Jane Nelson, the bestselling author of the Positive Discipline book series, says it’s very important for parents to be aware of how the heart is directing them. “I teach parents how to listen to their hearts,” Nelson said. “When they listen to their hearts intelligence, they make better decisions.” View the free webinar with Dr. Jane Nelson, Cultivating Positive Discipline for Children.
Meet a Heart-Intelligent Parent – coming up
Meet Claire, a Heart-Intelligent Parent
Claire Shaffe, a mother of two, has tapped into her heart’s intelligence for a number of years by practicing HeartMath techniques with her family. She said the techniques have improved her relationship with her children and helped her stay connected with her heart and set a loving example, even in difficult situations.
“When I’m up against one of those standoffs where my children are
disagreeing with me on what a healthy snack would be or when bedtime is, I use my heart tools so I don’t react from anger or frustration,”¯ Shaffe said. “If a feeling of frustration comes up, I pause for a moment before I respond, and I use the Attitude Breathing® Tool (explained below) that I learned from HeartMath. I breathe in deeply and slowly through the area of my heart, and focus on feeling an attitude of love. Then I breathe out slowly a feeling of deep care. Before I know it, the frustration has dissipated and I feel more centered and balanced. From this place, I’m better prepared to respond with understanding and care, even if my decision isn’t a popular one.”
When you take a moment to shift away from frustration by recalling a genuine feeling of love, care or appreciation, you are replacing a negative emotion with a positive one and you are realigning the brain, heart and nervous system. The shift to this more coherent state enables you to make clear and efficient decisions, out of caring, rather than frustration.
Up Next – Attitude Breathing Tool
Shaffe said a bonus of practicing the HeartMath techniques is knowing her children are observing how they guide and help her. They see her making a shift from frustration to a new, more constructive perspective. She said there have been times when her children have asked if they could practice HeartMath’s heart tools with her.
Parenting with Attitude
IHM has developed many heart-based tools and techniques for improving the lives of adults and children. For parents and caregivers, heart tools like Attitude Breathing can be a great asset in the daily care of children. As Clare learned, children are easily influenced by the adults around them and benefit from observing this tool in action.
The Attitude Breathing® Tool
Use HeartMath’s Attitude Breathing to help you synchronize your heart, brain and nervous system and shift into a coherent state. Here are the steps of this powerful tool:
- Breathe in while focusing on your heart area, imagining you are actually breathing through your heart. It may help to place your hand over your heart.
- Now concentrate on a positive feeling or attitude as you breathe out.
- Lock in this new feeling as you continue to breathe it in and out through your heart area.
As you become adept at using this HeartMath technique, select new feelings to help you de-stress when negative emotions and challenges arise
Stay Tuned – Time-honored Parenting Tip
The Attitude Breathing Tool is one of the many free resources the Institute of HeartMath has available for parents and caregivers. Another resource parents, caregivers and educators also will find useful is the HeartMath My Kids! Facebook page. This online resource offers free games, tips and age-appropriate techniques for teaching children how to shift to the qualities of the heart and build coherence.
HeartMath has incorporated its more than two decades of research into practical solutions that parents and others can employ as they face today’s challenges. Thousands of people have used these solutions and the principles of heart-based living to improve their lives and those of friends and family.
Time-honored Parenting Tip
Although being a parent is hard at times, parents and others who care for children have found that when they connect with qualities like love, care, compassion and appreciation, being a parent is heartening experiences.
As we celebrate mothers everywhere on Mothers Day, may all their children marvel at and strive to achieve their great capacity for boundless love!