We all intuitively can feel that connecting with others boosts our health, right?
How much better do you feel after a warm hug from a friend, the comforting squeeze of a partner’s hand, or the joy of laughing around a dinner table with your children. Sharing space with a loved one for even one minute is enough to completely turn a bad day into a good one.
Medical studies have shown that increasing your connection to others not only improves your health, it actually increases your longevity. I feel this has something to do with the fact that we merge our natural energy fields together when we are close to one another.
We each produce our own healthy, natural EMF fields. Both the brain and the heart emit measurable energy fields, and it’s a beautiful thing. Which one do you think is largest and extends furthest from our bodies, the brain or the heart?
It’s the heart field.
When our heart energy fields are overlapping, we can become attuned to others, and we can literally feel when we are resonant (or discordant) with others.
Connecting to others is so important that it actually helps provide anesthesia to pain… that’s how much physical closeness helps.
- A medical study (published in 2018 in the Proceedings Of The National Academy of Sciences) showed that simply holding hands provided significant analgesia during pain.
- Physical touch can even calm brain activity during distress, a study (published in 2006 in Psychological Science) found. In this study, brain activity was measured via a functional MRI while partners held hands with their spouse… hand holding significantly reduced level of brain activity during painful stimuli.
- Another study, published in 2019 in Pain Management Nursing, found a simple hand massage reduced pain as well as provided longer pain free intervals in critically ill patients in a surgical intensive care unit.
Physical touch even has the power to lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and calm respiratory rate. A study published in 2017 in Scientific Reports found when evaluating patients who had a pain event while being monitored via an ECG… patients holding their partners hands had significant analgesia which resulted in lowered blood pressure, lowered heart rate response, and a lowered respiratory rate.
Medical studies are just starting to reveal the healing power of physical touch:
- physical touch has the power to reduce pain
- physical touch has the power to prolong pain free intervals (even in critically ill patients)
- physical touch has the power to calm brain activity during distress
- physical touch has the power to lower heart rate and blood pressure
- physical touch has the power to calm respiratory rate
And all of these studies are just from touch the touch of a loved one. Connecting and attuning with each other, overlapping our heart energy fields with those that we love.
So when you fall in love, you are specifically overlapping your heart energy with your lovers heart energy. Your bodies naturally attune together. You grow in love as you grow in sync.
Energy matches, breath matches, you literally become one energy field, together. As you attune together, you feel connected. They become your favorite person, an extended part of yourself.
And it’s not just human beings who can attune with each other — do you have a beloved pet?
I absolutely did, a once-in-a-lifetime pup, and unfortunately she passed away well over a year ago and I still miss her –painfully so — every single day. And there is a reason why: our heart fields were attuned to one another for 17 years.
As I talked about in this blog post here, pets actually boost health and longevity, much like connecting to your favorite human. From walking your dog to playing with your cat to letting your guinea pig or bird out of his or her cage for a little play time, pets provide us precious time bonding with a heart energy field that absolutely loves you unconditionally.
To read more about how pets help improve our health, including some very interesting medical studies that have been conducted on this, hop over to this article I wrote for you here:
I also recorded a podcast for you, on the power of animals to decrease stress in our bodies after literally only 5 minutes (and not only that, but they decrease stress more effectively than other activities, such as coloring or taking a break to relax!)
Spending 5 minutes with a dog was able to significantly lower the participants cortisol levels — and the dog was not even their own pet! You can listen to that right here:
In addition to attuning our heart fields together with our loved ones, I think another reason human connection is so healing is literally because we physically ground each other. Electrons are always flowing one way or another when you touch someone else, or they touch you.
Although the amount of electrons transferring is such a small amount relative to the amount of electrons in a human body, I believe this is in part why healing touch is so powerful. When you donate some of your electrons to someone who is in worse physical condition than you (such as someone in pain, or with an inflammatory process going on) you are supporting them in many ways.
I think this is part of what massage therapists, physical therapists, acupuncturists and other healers are doing when they touch you — donating much needed electrons. Even your pet can donate electrons to you when it snuggles up with you while you are sick or have a chronic condition bringing you down.
The earth outside does this for us all the time and it is one of the reasons I find the healing practice of grounding to be so centering. The earth literally protects our heart health through the power of it’s heartbeat: Schumann Resonance. On top of the many medical studies that I go over here for you on the heart protective benefits of grounding, another study published in Scientific Reports in 2018 found that the earth’s heartbeat itself — the Schumann Resonance — directly provides cardioprotection — helping to keep our heart functioning effectively, boosting heart rate variability (HRV) and decreasing heart damage.
For more information on how to use the healing power of grounding touch to support the health of your loved ones, read this blog post I wrote for you right here:
Our minds and our hearts are inextricably intertwined.
Mostly we can feel this on an emotional level — we can literally feel the people we love making our hearts feel warm and protected and expand in our chest. And sadly even people we are hurt by or scared of, we can feel that too — our hearts can feel colder or constricted or pound with fear in our chests.
Some of you are also aware that electrically — the brain and the heart each have an electrical field and that these electrical fields overlap. This gives our brain’s electrical activity (thinking) and heart’s electrical activity (heartbeats) a direct electrical link to each other, meaning our minds are literally energetically linked to our hearts.
It’s so beautiful:
But as a physician I want you to know that even biologically, as discrete, individual physical organ systems, there is a direct messaging through the physical body between the heart and the mind such heart issues can literally cause psychological issues and vice versa.
This is the least understand interaction between the heart and the mind, but recent medical studies are starting to clarify this heart/mind connection. In fact, in medicine we now recognize this exquisite connection between the heart and the mind that has given birth to a new field of medicine, called Behavioral Cardiology.
Behavioral Cardiology is an important field, because if we improve psychological health, we improve heart health. And if we improve heart health, might we improve psychological health? I believe so.
First of all, we clearly see that stress affects heart — acute psychological stress directly increases the risk of sudden heart attack and cardiovascular death. So much so that anxiety is actually a cardiac risk factor for heart attack and cardiac death, and depression increases risk of both fatal and non-fatal heart attack as well. If you’d like to read a medical review looking at all of the medical literature to date on mood disorders and cardiac health this one, published in 2000 in the Archives Of Internal Medicine, is a good one to start with.
Another, very interesting study looking at how our heart responds to mental stress found a key difference between the way a woman’s heart responds to stress and the way a man’s heart responds to stress. Published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology on Dec. 21, 2017, researchers found that there is an incredible difference between how a woman’s cardiovascular system responds to mental stress and how a man’s cardiovascular system responds to mental stress.
Researchers studied 678 patients with coronary artery disease and preformed myocardial perfusion imaging before and during a well known stressor: public speaking. I get so anxious with public speaking that I totally agree it’s the perfect setting to see how the heart reacts to perceived emotional stress. After obtaining the results of the cardiac perfusion study both at rest and during public speaking, researchers analyzed data from several different parameters of cardiac output and perfusion to see what affect the stress had on heart health.
What the researchers found is that men responded to the mental stress of public speaking by having a larger change in blood pressure, and a higher demand on the cardiovascular system to increase output. The increased cardiac output demands put the men at greater risk for heart attack.
Women were the opposite. Women responded to the mental stress of public speaking by having greater peripheral vasoconstriction (meaning the blood vessels constricted more, which limits the blood flow through them.) The increased vasoconstriction puts women at greater risk of heart attack as well, but for an entirely different reason than men.
Men respond to stress with an increased demand for blood flow, and while the heart works harder in an attempt to pump more blood out, this creates a mismatch in how much blood can reach the tissues and the result is a heart attack.
Women respond to stress with decrease in the peripheral perfusion do to increased vasoconstriction, which puts them at higher risk for ischemic heart attack.
In other words, the male’s heart demands more output during stress while a female’s vasculature constricts more during stress — and both responses put everyone at increased risk of heart attack during emotional stress.
Same end result, but different pathways.
And this is important because we can now start to tailor treatments to help really target and promote healing during stress, illness, depression. These studies suggest that men may be most helped by targeting inflammation and stress management treatments, while women might be most helped by immune boosting and circulation boosting therapies.
For example, perhaps men might benefit more from:
- lowering blood pressure with supplements
- decreasing inflammation through grounding
- and stress reduction techniques of meditation, acupuncture and yoga.
While women, with the same heart disease, anxiety or depression that men have, might benefit more from:
- supplements that target boosting immunity
- therapies that heal leaky gut and other autoimmune pathways
- along with exercises designed to boost circulation and perfusion like walking, aerobic exercise, hot yoga, even deep tissue massage.
This is just one example of countless different treatment plans that you and your physician could come up with, targeting specific pathways that are unique to you now that we know a little more about the stress response and how it affects our heart.
Another medical study, published in 2017 in Lancet, tried to uncover exactly why there is this direct correlation between stress and heart attack, in both men and women. It turns out, increased brain activity in the area of emotional processing (the amygdala) directly increases the risk of cardiovascular events.
This study was the first to show that increased amygdala activity in humans strongly predicts cardiovascular events such as stroke, heart attack and angina. Researchers followed 293 patients who underwent full body PET/CT scans at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA. The measured resting metabolic activity in the amygdala, bone marrow and arterial walls.
Researchers found that increased activity in the amygdala was strongly correlated with increased arterial inflammation and increased risk of cardiovascular events during an average follow up period of 3 1/2 years. They also found that high levels of self rated stress correlated with increases in amygdala activity, higher levels of arterial inflammation, and higher levels of the blood inflammatory marker: C-reactive protein.
Finally, a physical explanation for the very real connection between the emotional center of our brain and our heart health.
The amygdala is responsible for processing emotions, survival instincts and memory. And that about sums up how stress feels: it’s an increased emotional load, a feeling of being overwhelmed when trying to navigate a stressful situation, and traumatic memories from the past all get linked up with traumatic present experiences — which come together to increase the metabolic activity in your amygdala.
Based on these studies, researchers now believe that it is actually the brain activity of the amygdala (and emotional stress in particular) that links stressful events with cardiovascular disease… causing increased vascular inflammation, increased cardiovascular disease and increased risk of stroke, heart attack and angina.
More recently, published in 2021 in JAMA Cardiology, researchers specifical studied the link between heart disease and women with a history of trauma. Because most studies on heart disease have focused on the male population, this one really caught my eye.
Looking at almost 400,000 women, researchers identified women diagnosed with PTSD and matched them to age and cardiovascular risk correlated female controls with no history of PTSD. They then looked at ischemic heart disease outcomes, including new onset coronary artery disease, angina or heart attack (myocardial infarction) over a 5 year follow up period.
Researchers found that a history of PTSD in younger females increased the risk of developing subsequent heart disease by almost 60%. Yuck. A history of trauma pretty dramatically increases the risk of lasting heart health issues long term.
But don’t worry, because the health effects of trauma, including from PTSD, can be reversed. To work with me on how the body moves through and heals from trauma, even trauma from long ago, childhood trauma, even birth trauma, join my upcoming Trauma Resiliency & Recovery class here:
To me, these studies underscore how very strongly our mental and emotional state affect our well being.
The link between stress and heart attack, stroke, and angina is so pronounced that researchers are now advocating stress levels, a history of anxiety, and a history of depression to all be considered independent risk factors for heart disease, along with other classic cardiac risk factors such as age, smoking history, and family history of heart disease.
And a study published in 2016 in Circulation shows that this idea has real world applications and uncovers some very helpful solutions. Researchers followed over 150 patients who were assigned to have cardiac rehab care following a cardiac event, and found that by adding stress management skills into their cardiac rehab program they were able to slash the rate of future cardiac events in a 5 year follow up period IN HALF!
So if addressing stress reduces the risk of subsequent heart attack by 50%, now we know why: stressful brain activity is directly correlated with cardiovascular events. Reduce the stress response in the brain, reduce heart disease in the body.
Another reason to address trauma — release the stress from past traumas from your physical body to protect against heart disease. I’d love to help you with that, and you can join my Trauma Release class right here.
Our hearts are the center of our ability to expand… expand beyond just ourselves, and beyond just our limited experience, and expand beyond just this situation.
We can feel our connection to others, and our eternal nature. Our heart center expands outwards in a powerful, measurable energy field, right from the center of our being. In fact, our heart’s energy field is actually bigger than our brain’s measurable energy field, and maybe even best of all, they overlap.
You can literally feel this in your body. Have you ever sat, focusing on something that made you so happy that you literally felt your heart grow larger and larger and larger still? That’s what I painted in the canvas painting pictured above.
Have you ever felt that your chest was going to explode, your heart energy got so big?
Have you ever felt your heart vibration reach past your chest, past your body, reach into the space around, to the people around you, to the universe around you?
It feels so good, and it feels so good because it is the healthy state of being connected to all of the energy around you.
You are dropping the limited barriers of what defines *you* and reaching out to *all that is*… in this state, you are pure, positive joy. In this state, you have blown up all the barriers around your heart, the ones that you built to *protect you* that actually harm you… they are dissolved and meaningless.
You are greater than this one moment in time, this one body, this one lifetime.
Through your heart, you can expand past any problem, any limitation. Through your heart, you can connect to all that is physical and non-physical around you. Through your heart, you can *feel* the eternal connections that you can’t physically see with your eyes.
Your heart is an amazing electrically activated organ, designed to pump nutrition and health throughout your entire body. It’s designed to pump joy and love throughout your entire being. It’s entire function is dependent on it’s ability to translate energetic impulses into a functional push of the blood throughout your body.
But do not limit your heart to what it physically can do. Do not regard it as a piece of muscle designed to transport blood. Instead, really *feel* the entire purpose of it’s design. It is the one organ, more than any other, that connects your entire body together — infusing every single organ system with life giving nutrients. It reaches every tissue, every surface, every organ. Through it’s immense meshwork of vasculature, your heart is one of complete and utter connection.
Physically expanding to reach every single cell in your body… and emotionally, expanding your life force from the core of you to the universe around you.
To strengthen and expand your feelings of health and joy, remember back to those experiences where you feel your heart expanding, and seek to find those more often.
I felt them most effortlessly as a new mom, holding my babies. I can bring back that feeling any time I wish by remembering what it was like to hold them in my arms. To love on them. To take care of them. To adore them.
Recall your own times when your have felt your heart swell and reach for that feeling as often as you can. In this state you are realizing that the walls you build around your body and mind are no longer helpful, but instead, are constricting.
This picture was taken over a fifteen years ago, and both my kids are now all grown up and off to college… yet when I sit in appreciation for my children I can literally still feel my heart pound against my chest just like it did when they were first born.
I feel it expanding through my entire body, then out of my body, pulsing into the universe and connecting me to a greater love. It is in these moments that I *know* I am tapped in to something more than just myself. And it is in these moments that I know my connection to my children is eternal.
Do what you can, today, to find a moment like this and savor it.
You have just found your heartsong.
Every moment you spend in that state, you spend in the state of pure and absolute health.
And you don’t even have to connect with others to boost your heart health.
As we’ve mentioned, connecting to the earth through the practice of grounding is incredibly heart healthy, releasing stress and trauma from your body is heart healthy, spending time with a pet is heart healthy, and even just practicing a little self compassion is heart healthy… and not one of those four practices needs to involve another human being at all.
A study on self compassion, published in 2021 in Health Psychology, found that folks who reported extending compassion to themselves during times of suffering not only had better psychological outcomes, but also protected their heart health. Researchers used ultrasound technology to look at participants carotid artery health and measured carotid artery IMT (a well documented measure of cardiac disease.) They found that participants who practiced self compassion actually had healthier IMT measurements, lower rates of subclinical cardiovascular disease and lower over all cardiac risk factors, even after adjusting for all other standard cardiac risk factors.
So today, consider protecting your heart health in many many ways. Through physical touch with loved ones, through spending time outside on our earth, through spending quality time with your fur babies, through practicing self compassion and through really sinking into your heart field — feeling it’s warmth and it’s expansion.
And if you are lucky enough this Valentines day to be near someone you love, take a few minutes to drop down into your heart space and literally feel their energy. Over time you will get incredibly good at attuning with your loved ones, even matching your breathing to theirs without effort, calming and centering them as well as yourself.
Loved ones protect our health and buffer us from stress, so let’s become acutely aware of the precious heart energy of those we love and cherish the time that we are lucky enough to overlap them.
xoxox, Laura Koniver MD