Hello PPMA friends
Staying safe, remaining calm and reducing stress levels is crucial to everyone’s health and well being, especially in these difficult times. Leatham Green, Chief Executive of the Mindful HR Centre and also PPMA Executive Director, explains just how important touch is in achieving this.
“Touch is vital to all human beings and can be one of the quickest ways to both reboot and calm down the nervous system, restoring a sense of safety and wellness.
Experiencing warm, safe touch encourages the release of oxytocin, the hormone of safety and trust, the brain’s direct and immediate antidote to the stress hormone cortisol. This is vital to us all for a healthy and happy life.
There are many people living alone during this time of practicing social isolation, and the lack of connection with another human being (or animal) can be stressful and the cause of anxiety and depression. So this practice that will invite our minds to focus on warm, safe touch to help manage any anxiety or distress we are sensing, and evoke a memory of feeling calm, connected, safe and cared about to deepen that feeling of ease.
Why Hand on the Heart Works
When you breathe deeply into the heart centre, you’re activating the calming parasympathetic branch of the nervous system. When you breathe in a sense of ease or safety or kindness, you’re restoring conditions which allows your heart to respond more flexibly to stress.
When you remember a moment of feeling safe and loved and cherished with someone, you’re activating the release of oxytocin, the brain’s antidote to the stress hormone cortisol. You may actually feel the warm glow of the oxytocin as it washes through your body, coming to a sense of safety, trust, and calm.
Practice: The Hand on Heart Exercise
This is one of the most powerful tools we have to restore a sense of calm and equilibrium. Anchored in mindfulness and self-compassion, it is powerful enough to calm down a panic attack in less than a minute, or prevent the stress response from even happening in the first place.
- Place your hand on your heart. Breathe gently, softly, and deeply into the area of your heart. If you wish, breathe in a sense of ease or safety or goodness into this heart centre.
- Remember one moment when you felt safe, loved, and cherished by another human being. Don’t try to recall the entire relationship, just one moment. This could be a partner, a child, a friend, teacher, spiritual figure, or even a pet.
- As you remember this moment of feeling safe, loved, and cherished, let yourself experience the feelings of that moment. Let the sensations wash through your body. Let yourself stay with these feelings for twenty to thirty seconds. Notice any deepening in a visceral sense of ease and safety.
- Repeat this practice many times a day at first to strengthen the neural circuitry that remembers this pattern. If you practice five times a day for a full week, you will train your brain in this new response to any difficult moment. Then you can repeat it any time you need to, any time at all. It’s portable equilibrium.”
Leatham Green, Chief Executive of the Mindful HR Centre and PPMA Executive Director