The Heart of a Community

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

“As the CEO of my hospital, HeartMath has been a game changer. For me personally, it has improved my health, relationships and productivity and also allowed me to improve the culture of my organization through leadership by example. Since adding HeartMath to our wellness program for our employees in 2009, we have truly bent the cost curve on our medical claims. The past three years, we’ve averaged only a 2.5 percent annual increase in claims compared to an 11 percent increase for the industry – that has resulted in a $3M savings over that time frame! Healthier, happier and more productive employees clearly impact the quality of our care for our patients.”

–Todd Linden, CEO, Grinnell Regional Medical Center, Grinnell, Iowa

In Sara Childre’s previous Nourishing the Heart column, we invited readers to participate in the Institute of HeartMath’s Recognizing Community Care Contest.

This week, we’d like to invite you to take the poll below.

Do you feel your workplace community is emotionally healthy?

Look for Part 2 of Nourishing the Heart of Communities next week.

7 Signs of a Good Community
Why We Need Our Neighbors


HeartMath is sponsoring a Best Practices Conference called “Creating Caring Environments,” from May 17-20 in Aptos, Calif., for health care system leaders featuring speakers from Mayo Clinic, Arizona State University, Grinnell Regional Medical Center, Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, and others.


Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago


Lynn C.
Lynn C6 years ago

Oh dear - I voted No, but it should have been leaning yes. I'm not in the work community, but have seen the people in the grocery stores here, taking "care" of their older customers, and generally showing their awareness of people as people. This is a small community and everyone is seen often enough in any one of the three grocery stores (not counting Walmart, but they could be included, I guess), to become a familiar face.
It seems to be related to how much attention you give your fellow man, and how much time you take to get to know them.

Claire C.
Claire Chambers6 years ago

Community support is so vital to us as human beings - I don't think we really realize it. We really need one another.

Kathy K.
Kathy K6 years ago

Interesting, Thanks.

Sheila L.
Sheila Swan L6 years ago

It's HARD to form new community or form ones in new places that harmonize with what you are and how you have lived your life. As we age, no more children at home, life seems more challenging than it was when moving or having to find a new community.

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago


May Howie
may Howie6 years ago