Monday, February 21, 2011

The power of relationship building

One hallmark of successful people is their ability to harness the power of building relationships.
The successes or failures of individuals, families, communities and countries depend how we interact with one another. If individuals get along communities are formed, if communities get along a nation prospers, if nations get along, the world becomes one. In order to enjoy the fruits of the prosperity of individuals, communities, nations or the world as a whole, one needs good health.

Maintaining good health also depends on the harmonious relationship between various organs of the body. By and large, the internal bodily mechanism continues to function and contribute to our well being despite our lack of cooperation in the form of bad eating, lack of exercise and harboring ill feelings. We tend to forget how delicate the internal balance really is.

Every organ in our body depends on other organs and we depend on this interrelationship between all the internal organs. Even within a bodily organ, proper functioning depends on the positive relationship of the various parts.

Looking at the functioning of the human heart gives us a lot of insight into how building relationships gives us long term benefits. The human heart is fascinating in its simplicity. It has 4 chambers, 2 large pipes going out, 6 smaller pipes coming in, 4 doors or valves, and it functions as a pump with plumbing, electrical and mechanical parts. It works from birth to death pumping 5 litres of blood every minute of our lives. Within the heart there is a wall that separates the right and left sided chambers. The right and left sided chambers serve very different functions. The right sided chambers are involved in transporting oxygen poor blood to the lungs and the left sided chambers are involved in sending oxygen rich blood to the rest of the body. One cannot say one side is more important than the other. They are interdependent and we are in turn dependent on the normal functioning of both sides of the heart. The heart is a great example of working for others without attachment to the fruits of our work. During the course of our lives we put food into our system that could be detrimental to our health. Take cholesterol rich, high fat food for instance. When you eat such food, cholesterol particles that are transported in the blood have to pass through the heart at some point. These cholesterol particles are detrimental to the health of your blood vessels including those that supply your heart. If your heart were to stop in protest about transporting cholesterol rich particles, imagine what would happen to you. The heart is also a great example of sacrificing ourselves for the benefit of others.

Mental worries also put a strain on our hearts. The heart is considered the seat of emotion. If you worry a lot, it burdens your heart. Just as a family unit depends on the cooperation of the different members of the family, your good health depends on the relationship of your mind and your heart. Worries are generated in the mind and the effects are stored in the seat of emotion, the heart.

What can you do to play your part in contributing to the internal harmony of your body which in turn gives you health and well being. The answer may lie in the simple process of breathing. How does breathing help the heart?

There is a relationship between inhalation and exhalation on the functioning of the right and left sides of the heart. For inhalation to occur, the pressure in the lungs and the chest cavity must be less than the pressure in the surrounding air. During inhalation, as the diaphragm and the muscles attached to the ribs work to increase the size of the chest cavity, the pressure in the chest cavity drops in relation to the surrounding air and air moves into the lungs. This change in pressure during inhalation that helps air entry into the lungs helps the heart as well. This drop in the pressure in the chest cavity during inspiration helps suck blood into the right sided chambers of the heart, aiding its function. When you give a brief pause between inhalation and exhalation, it gives time for the right sided chambers to send blood to the lungs and for the cells of the blood to extract oxygen from the incoming air.

The opposite occurs during exhalation. The muscles of the chest wall and the diaphragm relax, this decreases the size of the chest cavity, increases the pressure inside and the pressure inside the chest cavity is higher than the pressure in the surrounding air. This helps air rush out. This positive pressure that is generated by the process of exhalation helps the chambers of the left side of the heart. When the left sided chambers are about to eject oxygen rich blood to the rest of the body, the positive pressure generated by exhalation is transmitted to the heart muscle, giving the muscles of the heart a much welcome helping hand. Holding your breath at the end of exhalation as long as you comfortably gives time for blood to interact with the tissues of the body, delivering oxygen.

A very important component of the breathing process is the diaphragm. Most of us do not utilize the diaphragm when we breathe. If your abdominal wall moves in and out during breathing, you are using your diaphragm, of not you are a chest breather.

You don’t have to look too far to find examples of the long term positive benefits of building good relationships. Slow deep breathing with brief comfortable pauses at the end of inhalation and exhalation relaxes and decreases the work of the heart, helps your lungs clean out most of the air with respiratory exchange and this in turn gives you good health. Additionally, slow deep breathing also has a positive calming effect on the mind.

One easy exercise everyone can do is to take 20 slow, deep breaths with comfortable pauses at the end of each inhalation and exhalation. This may be done first thing in the morning and in the evening before going to bed. Anytime during the daytime, if you find yourself getting stressed out, add in 10 of these breaths. This helps these stressful thoughts from condensing on the seat of you emotion, your heart. Instead, it evaporates from your system in the form of your exhaled breath.