Let’s shift from our heads to our hearts this magical season. By Denise Leicester

December… where to start? Even the name of the month sends some people into a panic. A few years ago – 2008 – my husband took a photo of me serving Christmas lunch. I had decided to invite the whole family and had put everything into it. But the picture was about as far from the ideal of the festive hostess as I could have imagined. I looked so drained that I was barely recognisable. I pledged that from that point onwards, I was going to do things differently.
Since then, I have adopted a very different approach to the festive period. I’m much more organised and far less inclined to say yes to everything. But most importantly, I make a conscious effort to focus on ‘giving’ – as much to myself as to others – and so it becomes a lovely circle: freeing frazzled time to create space for sincere connections; swapping unnecessary pressures for time to write personal notes; and transforming the mechanical obligation of expensive presents into choosing tokens with personal meaning. With this approach, the whole energy of the thought process shifts from the head to the heart, and the effects can be incredible.
Did you know that the heart’s electromagnetic field is 60 times greater in amplitude than that of the brain? And that when measuring the heart’s natural beat-to-beat changes, negative emotions have been shown to produce inconsistent, erratic rhythms versus the regular coherent rhythms produced by positive emotions?
I recently came across the HeartMath Institute, a fascinating centre of research and technology that helps people bridge the connection between heart and mind, and deepen their connection with the hearts of others. HeartMath’s scientifically based tools not only reduce stress and increase heart coherence and energy reserves, but teach us how to self-regulate emotions and behaviours, develop our own personal coherence (by syncing our physical, mental and emotional systems) and thus contribute to global coherence. It’s pretty powerful to know that our hearts have the potential to change the way our brains process and respond to things.
And it’s a lovely gift to pass on this season: the freedom to reduce stress and enhance life – all by using the heart.

Conscious Beauty
My favourite oil for this time of year is vetiver. Its joyful, warming quality instills a stillness of depth and relaxation, grounding the heart, restoring emotional stability, and centring us in our heart consciousness. This month, start and end your day with a 10-minute HeartMath-inspired session. With vetiver in an oil-burner, find a quiet spot and begin to regulate your inhalations and exhalations; breathe through your heart; and focus on a positive emotion (love, compassion, gratitude) – a heartfelt gift to yourself, your immediate surroundings and the world this festive season.

Denise Leicester is the founder of ila-spa.com

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