(An article in an ongoing series by Claire Berry, Peter's partner)
If you think back to a time when you have connected with others, you are likely to feel that loving bond even if you aren’t with them. Sometimes we can conjure up the thoughts of a
loving relationship even if our memory comes from long ago. As an adult, I can remember special times with my grandparents and the feelings that I had with them flood back to me, even though none of my grandparents are alive to share them with me. There is something very special about loving connection.
When I ask people where that feeling comes from, this feeling of being bonded in a relationship, the most common answer I get is that it comes from the heart. Some people say that their heart feels bigger or stronger; others tell me that they feel as though their heart melts when they are in a loving relationship. To have a deep conversation with another is often called a heart-to-heart or a heart-felt conversation. We intuitively understand that the heart is the primary organ of relationship, however is there any scientific evidence for this?
About a decade ago Peter was curious about the power of the heart to bond people together. Drawing on his experience as a relationship coach Peter suspected that he could measure the wonderful effect of a happy relationship on our physiology and he started with the heart. Although this question formed the basis of the research, as you might expect, deep down in my own heart I was sure that he was right. Believing that we are connected through our hearts was the easy part, proving it became Peter’s full time job and full time passion since 2014.
In the time since we started on our journey of discovery, Peter has taught himself to code and has read widely on the subject. Our kitchen table which used to be the focus for noisy family meals became the repository for research papers, laptops, monitors and, increasingly mobile phones. Family meals had to take place elsewhere in the house as papers could only be moved for high days and holidays. Peter assured me that there was an order to the chaos, but I can tell you that it was not easily apparent to the naked eye!
Peter with his trusty research assistant Mia on a tidy day!
This sacrifice was worth it as over time. Peter and I carried out hundreds of experiments using easily available consumer heart rate monitors and have made some astonishing scientific discoveries. In the early days our data was drawn from experiments when we were sat together. In Peter’s book ‘Connected Hearts’ he shows how our heart’s pattern would synchronise or copy each other when we were bonded with one another. It was clear to see that the more loving we were to each other, the smoother and more similar our heart rates were. We would often come out of these experiments with a feeling of calm and loving connection. Now, we are a normal couple, and so on some days life would get in the way and we wouldn’t feel that bonded. This would appear as a heart rate pattern that was jagged, which was also how we felt! We learned that we could improve our relationship and heart synchronisation by deliberately focusing on each other and returning it to a more loving place.
The hearts of two people making eye contact and connecting heart-to-heart
Over time we have done so many experiments that we have lost track of the total number. Now with Peter’s development of a smartphone app we can watch our hearts pattern reflecting our loving feelings towards each other in real-time. On good days these coherent patterns would develop quickly and could often be sustained for a large chunk of the experiment. Over time we learned that feelings of peace and happiness would be reflected in a similar or synchronised heart rate pattern. On bad days, when Peter or I were caught up with the problems of real life, then it could take longer to achieve a synchronised pattern. The great thing was that we learned how to adapt our focus on each other in order to improve our heart’s pattern. The message is clear – anybody can improve the quality of their relationships through mutual heart-focused attention.
In Peter’s book he explains the experiments that we have done in detail. If you would like to learn more about this exciting work and how to use the research findings to improve your relationships, then you can purchase a copy of his book through Amazon. Alternatively, you can go to the Science section of the HeartBond website where he has published his findings for you to have a look at.
Before I end this article, I want to say that I understand that many of you have experienced relationships that have not been smooth and may have brought you upset or distress during your life. This article has mostly focused on the positives of a bonded relationship, however over the next few articles I will begin to delve into how these new findings about the heart can help you to heal difficult or dysfunctional relationships which you may have in your lives.