I have lived in several small communities since college – always appreciating the camaraderie and support of others – whether practicing yoga, planting gardens, sharing meals or helping each other with personal problems. We had the same challenges facing all communities– whether a home, workplace, a village or a city – often without effective tools to address them. Challenges like how to work together harmoniously, how to resolve conflicts effectively, how to encourage healthy attitudes and behaviors, and others. The question I kept asking is, “How do we nourish the hearts of people who make up a community?”
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index set out to determine: “What does it take to be America’s happiest city?” and “What makes a city sad?” They asked numerous questions of city residents in regards to life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities. Those locales with the highest scores were determined to be the happiest and those that scored lowest were considered the saddest. I found it interesting (but not surprising) that emotional health, healthy behaviors and a positive work environment were major factors.
When we started HeartMath, we wanted to research heart-based living and develop emotional self-regulation tools to increase harmony and coherence. We designed programs and methods for individuals and groups to reduce stress and improve emotional and physical health as well as create a more positive environment. We also wanted to measure the social outcomes, including effects on productivity, communication and health care costs. One of our health care system clients, Grinnell Regional Medical Center, in Grinnell, Iowa, wanted to see if they could replicate the results that they’d achieved in their community hospital with HeartMath within the larger community. They called the project, “Heart of Grinnell: A Community-Wide Rural Health Wellness Initiative,” which began in 2007 and is ongoing in Grinnell, Iowa, a community of a little more than 9,000 residents situated about 50 miles east of the capital, Des Moines.
Next: Grinnell’s Result