Psst… Do you want to hear a secret? The secret to success in the 21st century and beyond? Lean in real close because here it is… “It’s all about your physiology."
It’s your physiology that drives results in life.
Consider this model by Neuroscientist Dr. Alan Watkins in his mind-blowing book Coherence: the secret science of brilliant leadership.
To change the results in our life, we must change the quality of our behavior.
To change the quality of our behavior, we must change the quality of our thinking
To change the quality of our thinking, we must change the quality of what we are feeling.
To change the quality of what we are feeling we must change the quality (or coherence) of our physiology.
How do we change the quality of our physiology? Quite simply, it is how we breathe and what we are feeling. Our breathing pattern (slow/deep vs. erratic) and our emotions are two, clear-cut catalysts that effect our physiology in either a positive or negative way. They are two portals that allow us to modulate how we perceive, relate and behave everyday and in every moment.
Just knowing this can be a game changer.
Resonant breathing (slow & deep) brings synchronization to the autonomic nervous system by activating our relaxation response. Positive emotions secrete key anabolic hormones, creating a beneficial cocktail that adds strength, flexibility and restoration to our physiology. In contrast, depleting emotions and feelings of stress secrete hormones, underpinned by Cortisol, that are catabolic and toxic to the system in accumulated doses.
All emotions fall into one of two categories: renewing and depleting. Renewing emotions are feelings of love, joy, gratitude and compassion and depleting emotions are feelings of fear, frustration, anxiety, and impatience. Renewing emotions are “skilled emotions” because of the effort needed to cultivate and strengthen, while depleting emotions are “unskilled” because no effort is required to summon them and they often stay as unwelcome house guests.
Emotions are literally “energy in motion” in our body and run in the background all the time, whether we are aware of them or not. This background energy can range from the soundtrack to an inspirational Disney movie to that of Freddy vs. Jason 5. Our default breathing patterns and inner emotional landscapes combine to affect our health, happiness and performance. Self-regulation techniques such as breath-work, mindful practices and meditation have been around for thousands of years because they move baselines. Now science can measure the benefits of these time vetted practices.
Self-regulation (or mind-body) techniques are simply a way to hack into our biology to alter biological baselines and habitual neural patterns.
The secret is this: Resonant breathing coupled with renewing emotions puts our autonomic nervous system and hormonal system in a sweet spot state that creates resilience, optimal performance and what scientists call physiological coherence. Physiological coherence is a state of inner balance that can be measured in real time using biofeedback and Heart Rate Variability (HRV). HRV is a biomarker that is used to measure and index vagal tone.
We should all strive for a high degree of coherence because it is a state of optimal functioning and resilience. With coherence, all bodily systems work together in energetic coordination; it is the state athletes call being “in the zone” or jazz improv players call being “in the pocket.” Coherence is a state of flow that can be self-initiated, sustained and realized by consistently applying self-regulation techniques and practice. The more you practice, the higher your baseline and bigger your capacity for resilience will become.
Is physiological coherence a silver bullet? No, but it if you learn how to "pluck the guitar string," then measure and improve your markers… it is pretty damn close.
The secret is officially out... it is our physiology and emotions that drive the results in our lives.
Unlike most secrets, tell everyone you know.