For years, as a psychotherapist and as a trainer, I’ve had people place their hands over the part of their body that is activated by what they are feeling … normally the heart area. It helped them stay in touch with their feelings, which made it easier to work with them.
My friend Clare Vivian-Neal sent me an article on neuroplasticity explaining why that’s so. (Science now validating what sages have known forever.) When hugging, kissing, being touched by someone you love, the pituitary releases a neuropeptide, oxytocin, aka The Love Hormone. It acts as both a hormone and as a brain neurotransmitter, functioning as a “bonding” agent. It’s the antithesis of cortisol, the stress hormone. “Research has shown that oxytocin flowing through the body-brain can pre-empt the stress response altogether.”*
Bottom line: when your own hand is placed over your own heart, the neural cells around your heart immediately communicate to the brain, which releases the oxytocin. If you breathe and allow that feeling of connection (hand/heart), to expand, you can even “reverse a panic attack in less than a minute.”*
Bigger Picture: Imagine practicing this “hand on heart” exercise regularly. Building up the love hormone over time trains the brain to create this new response to difficult situations before they even happen. How cool is that?
*Linda Graham, MFT, “Neuroplasticity, The Game Changer for Stress, Shame, and Trauma”