By Dr. Mercola
Emotional challenges can easily sideline even the healthiest lifestyle when it comes to your physical health and well-being. This is why having a tool to address stress, anxiety and other emotional trauma is not a luxury in the 21st century — it’s a necessity. You may already have some stress-busting strategies, like exercise, meditation or bubble baths, and while these are each beneficial in their own right, they do not necessarily get to the root of the negative emotions in your body.
This is where the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) excel and why it’s among my most highly recommended tools to optimize your emotional health. EFT is a psychological acupressure technique that’s based on the same energy meridians used in acupuncture. However, instead of stimulating the pathways with needles, EFT uses tapping with your fingertips along with voicing positive affirmations.
It’s noninvasive, quick and easy to use. You can consult with an EFT practitioner to do sessions with you (and I recommend doing this for serious emotional traumas); however, the beauty of EFT is that once you learn how to perform it correctly, you can use it virtually anywhere, and immediately, to help yourself or others.
How Does EFT Work?
According to traditional Chinese medicine, a meridian is a channel through which qi (pronounced chee), a vital energy source, flows. The energy meridians in your body have been used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments for over 5,000 years. Much like your body’s circulatory system, which depends on open channels for blood, oxygen and nutrients to flow, your body’s energy pathways must also be clear of blockages in order for this revitalizing life force to flow freely.
Many types of negative emotions and trauma can lead to blockages or disruptions in the flow of qi; EFT uses physical tapping with your fingertips to input kinetic energy at specific tapping points, which helps to clear the blockages, freeing the pathways for revitalizing qi to flow. When combined with positive affirmations, the emotional block or “short-circuit” is corrected, restoring balance to your mind and body.
“Frequently referred to as ‘tapping,’ this technique combines the cognitive reprocessing benefits of exposure and acceptance therapy with the energetic disturbance releases associated with acupuncture and other energy therapies,” according to Patrice Rancour, a registered nurse at Ohio State University’s Integrative Medicine Clinic.1
“More than 60 research articles in peer-reviewed journals report a staggering 98 percent efficacy rate with the use of this procedure from psychological distress (such as posttraumatic stress disorder, phobias, anxiety and depression) to physical conditions such as asthma, fibromyalgia, pain and seizure disorders, to performance issues (for example, athletic or academic).”
What Are the Top Benefits of EFT?
EFT offers a wide variety of physical and mental benefits, ranging from pain and depression relief to eliminating food cravings and helping you reach your weight loss goals. For instance:
Research has shown that EFT significantly increases positive emotions, such as hope and enjoyment, and decreases negative emotional states, including stress. EFT is particularly powerful for treating stress because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.2 Further, among nursing students, a population known to experience significant stress, EFT led to decreases in feelings of stress and anxiety including a decrease in physical symptoms.3
In another study, participants received a single hourlong EFT session, which led to significant improvements in anxiety and depression, along with a decrease in cortisol (a stress hormone). “The decrease in cortisol levels in the EFT group mirrored the observed improvement in psychological distress,” the researchers explained.4
Depression and Anxiety
People with anxiety or depression who participated in an eight-week EFT treatment program experienced a significant reduction in symptoms at the three- and six-month follow-up.5 EFT conducted in a group setting also reduced symptoms in people suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety.6 It makes sense that clearing emotional blocks would ease such symptoms, as the single biggest determinant of anxiety and depression is traumatic life events.7
EFT can help to decrease the intensity of traumatic memories after just one session.8 In another study, depressed students who were given four 90-minute EFT sessions showed significantly less depression than the control group when evaluated three weeks later. “These results are consistent with those noted in other studies of EFT that included an assessment for depression and indicate the clinical usefulness of EFT as a brief, cost-effective and efficacious treatment,” researchers stated.9
EFT can relieve many types of chronic pain, including that from chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. In one such study, chronic pain patients used a combination of EFT and another technique (wholistic hybrid derived from eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) to improve anxiety, depression and pain severity. In the case of back pain, the late John Sarno, a professor of rehabilitation medicine, used mind-body techniques to treat patients with severe low back pain.
His specialty was helping those who had already had surgery for low back pain and did not get any relief. This is a tough group of patients, yet he claimed to have a greater than 80 percent success rate using techniques like EFT. EFT, performed twice a day for two months, has even been found to reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches in people suffering from tension-type headaches.10
Food Cravings and Weight Management
EFT can help you to reach your ideal weight in two ways: by reducing food cravings and by helping you resolve the emotional issues that may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts. By tapping on the food craving itself, in the moment it occurs, you can reduce your stress and release some of the emotions behind the cravings.
Once you do that, the craving diminishes. On an emotional level, negative emotions like fear, anxiety, guilt and depression can make it difficult to make healthy lifestyle choices that are conducive to weight loss, while excess levels of cortisol may drive up belly fat. This is why tending to your emotional health is essential for long-term weight loss success. In an Australian study involving 96 overweight and obese adults, EFT significantly reduced food cravings and increased the participants’ ability to show restraint — even after six months.11
The participants also enjoyed improvements in weight, body mass index, psychological coping and depression after using EFT. If you want to learn more about EFT for weight loss, the film “Tapping for Weight Loss” features EFT master Carol Look and Jon Gabriel, author of “The Gabriel Method,” as they assist a group of adults in clearing out the emotional barriers that impede their weight loss success.
How to Perform EFT
While you can recruit the help of a professional EFT practitioner, I invite you to use the following resources which will help you learn the mechanics of EFT, as well help you gain an appreciation for its wide-ranging application.
There are two basic areas to learn in order to use EFT: the tapping locations and technique, and the positive affirmations. Tapping is done with your fingertips, solidly but not so hard that it hurts. Ideally, remove any glasses or watch prior to tapping (which could interfere electromagnetically with the process), and tap each point five to seven times. The tapping points are below; it’s easiest to start at the top and work your way down.
1. Top of the Head (TH): With fingers back-to-back down the center of the skull.
2. Eyebrow (EB): Just above and to one side of the nose, at the beginning of the eyebrow.
3. Side of the Eye (SE):
On the bone bordering the outside corner of the eye.
4. Under the Eye (UE): On the bone under an eye about 1 inch below your pupil.
5. Under the Nose (UN): On the small area between the bottom of your nose and the top of your upper lip.
6. Chin (Ch): Midway between the point of your chin and the bottom of your lower lip. Even though it is not directly on the point of the chin, we call it the chin point because it is descriptive enough for people to understand easily.
7. Collar Bone (CB): The junction where the sternum (breastbone), collarbone and the first rib meet. This is a very important point and in acupuncture is referred to as K (kidney) 27. To locate it, first place your forefinger on the U-shaped notch at the top of the breastbone (about where a man would knot his tie). From the bottom of the U, move your forefinger down toward the navel 1 inch and then go to the left (or right) 1 inch. This point is referred to as Collar Bone even though it is not on the collarbone (or clavicle) per se.
8. Under the Arm (UA): On the side of the body, at a point even with the nipple (for men) or in the middle of the bra strap (for women). It is about 4 inches below the armpit.
9. Wrists (WR): The last point is the inside of both wrists.
While tapping, you’ll want to hold the problem or negative emotions in your mind while saying (ideally out loud) your positive affirmations, which can take on any number of forms. A basic phrase to use would be, “Even though I have this [you fill in the blank], I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” If you are in public and don’t want to say your affirmations out loud, it’s acceptable to say them very quietly or in your head, but for best results speak them with feeling and emphasis (even if you don’t believe them yet).
Sometimes one round of tapping is enough to clear up an issue while others repeated rounds are necessary. The great thing about EFT is that it costs nothing and you can use it as often as necessary to support your emotional health. You can also perform EFT on children (or teach them how to do it themselves) during stressful situations or to help resolve emotional traumas.
Live EFT Demonstration August 10!
If you want to see EFT in action, Julie Schiffman, EFT tapping therapy practitioner, will be doing a live demonstration centered around stress and how stress can affect your body. She will also be explaining the overall benefits of EFT including its effects on stress reduction, cortisol and inflammation. Whether you’re simply curious or want to follow along, be sure to tune in August 10, 2018 at 11 a.m. CST to see EFT tapping to relieve stress — live.