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Have you ever made a simple realization that helped you change your life in almost unimaginable ways? I have and it has been so profound for me I want to share it with you.
I discovered something so simple, yet so tremendous that it helped me to change the way I live my life, handle everyday challenges and effectively deal with my PTSD symptoms. This simple change in perspective has so improved my life, that I have become highly focused on helping others discover this same realization. I’ll bet most of you know it, logically or intellectually, but it still may be hidden from you in practical ways. The secret is not that you do not know it, but that you might not fully realize you have the power to regulate it.
The realization is this: We don’t have to be unwitting victims to our emotions; rather, we have the built-in power to control them.
This realization is bigger for those of us who have suffered with the symptoms of PTSD than it is for many other people. The simple truth is, PTSD is very intimately tied to our emotions, reactions and emotional responses in almost every situation in our lives. We knowingly grant an emotional value to each event that takes place in our lives, which seems both reasonable and appropriate. At a fundamental level, we clearly understand that our emotions are an indicator (an internal compass) that points to what is significant in our lives.
We also must recognize, however, that some of our life events – personal (family) or professional (military service) – not only have a powerful impact when they happen, but also can generate other harmful effects (emotional residue), such as the symptoms of PTSD, which can linger for a lifetime if they go unchecked. We must all remember that each of us is the master of his or her emotions and can learn how to clean up internal residue little by little, piece by piece, step by step. It takes time, personal courage and patience, but we can learn to control our emotions and restore and rebuild our emotional resilience.
I was introduced to the research and resources of the Institute of HeartMath four years ago. Slowly, using a step-by-step strategy, I have learned that I can control my emotions and reduce or eliminate the symptoms of PTSD. Many of us don’t know exactly how to control our emotions or that our emotions can be regulated by knowing how they work, and that’s where HeartMath comes in. The Institute of HeartMath has researched the physiology of emotions for more than 20 years and found that the key to them lies in power of the heart.
HeartMath research shows that when we are worried, anxious and frustrated – experiencing stress – our heart rhythms become jagged, irregular and incoherent. The more stressed we are, the more chaotic our heart-rhythm patterns become. Many of us feel this way through symptoms of PTSD, but we do not understand the role of the heart or how to harness its power.
In contrast, when we are experiencing positive feelings like love, care, gratitude, compassion or joy, our heart-rhythm patterns become smooth and ordered, reflecting a state of coherence.
HeartMath research shows that when we are coherent, we are operating at maximum efficiency and have the power to adapt and initiate new responses, even in difficult or stressful situations. When we are in a state of coherence, we experience less stress, waste less energy on inefficient reactions and energy-draining thought processes and typically enjoy better health.
In addition to these benefits, researchers have documented positive improvements in pain perception, respiration, blood pressure and blood glucose levels. Studies also show that coherence increases our immune-system function, helps reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, and increase the anti-aging hormone, DHEA.
Most important, techniques that help individuals create coherent states have proven to be extremely effective for veterans like me. Researchers at the Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, S.C., recorded marked improvements in the attention span and memory of soldiers with PTSD who practiced HeartMath’s science-based techniques and used its emWave® technology. The findings from their study, Cardiac Coherence And Posttraumatic Stress Disorder In Combat Veterans, were published in the Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine journal in 2010.
Over the last several years, I’ve become more and more involved with HeartMath because it has helped me make my greatest realization and, over time, continuously improve my life. My emotional system awareness is now so fine-tuned that I can sense when negative energy is beginning to rise and needs to be cleared before it shows itself as a negative emotional reaction. As I keep working toward my goal of full coherence, I have learned to incorporate HeartMath tools into my daily routines and use HeartMath techniques every day to regulate my PTSD symptoms.
I have learned how to live my life outside of the residual stress and anxiety (the residue) that I learned over a career in the military. My adult daughter noticed the change that practicing HeartMath had made in my life. “Dad,” she said affectionately, “It’s like you’ve had a brain transplant.” Moreover, I’m no longer hijacked by the emotional responses and the PTSD symptoms that I acquired through my rewarding, but demanding military career.
I believe in the HeartMath tools and techniques so much that I’ve collaborated with the institute to create a new DVD that we have just released and are providing for free to military personnel, veterans and military families. It’s called the HeartMath Education and Resilience Training (H.E.A.R.T.) DVD and it teaches emotion refocusing techniques that were developed from research and are shown to help reduce stress and increase emotional resilience.
I’m very honored to share this DVD with you, and if you would like a copy you can go to http://www.heartmath.org/training/military/heart-dvd-request-form.html and fill out the simple online form to have a H.E.A.R.T. DVD mailed to you.
IHM’s Military Service Appreciation Fund (MSAF) is the reason this DVD is free. The fund provides programs and services to active service members, veterans and military families to help us live healthier and more resilient lives and to return to our natural selves.
I’m also using the unique emWave® technology, which helps me measure my emotional state in real time and which I use as my own personal trainer and coach. The emWave technology, in combination with HeartMath techniques, has helped me improve my skills and my ability to get myself back into coherence. It really helps to use the technology to see how effective my practice has become and to see the increase in my recovery speed and the duration of my personal coherence.
You may be eligible to receive this technology for free by applying for a scholarship application.
I encourage you to explore HeartMath, learn more about the tools and techniques that are available for both you and your family members. Consider giving yourself this unique opportunity to change your life. I did, and because I made a choice to give it a try, it changed my life. It also has helped thousands of people make the same big realization: We have the power to control our emotions.
Learn more about the Institute of HeartMath and their services for military member and veterans at http://www.heartmath.org/military. You can also join them on Facebook where they also have a special resources page at http://on.fb.me/ot-2serve.
ABOUT BOB BRADLEY
Retired Army Maj. Robert A. Bradley served in the Armed Forces from 1977 to 2003, including 10 years as an enlisted member of the Air Force and 15 years as an Army officer. His service includes both active-duty and reserve time, and he was given assignments within and outside the United States. In 2007, Bradley became interested in working in and supporting the veteran’s community, and this led him join the Institute of HeartMath as a military and veterans training specialist. He is certified in various HeartMath training programs and has undertaken research and graduate studies in resilience and coherence.
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