Inspiration

How Does Tapping Work?

Written by: Nick Ortner

Tapping, often called EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), is a technique that has been used by more than 10 million people around the world to reduce stress and support healing. 

It is an easy technique to learn that simply involves using your fingertips to tap on a specific set of points on the body, while focusing on what is causing you distress or discomfort and speaking certain statements.

Tapping has been shown to be an extremely effective tool for people to find relief from daily stress, along with issues like anxiety, depression, insomnia, fears and phobias, chronic pain, and much more.

So how does EFT work? And why does Tapping work for such a wide range of different problems and conditions?

In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into the mechanisms behind this effective healing tool, so that you can better understand what Tapping does and how it can help. 

What is Tapping? 

First, let’s take a moment to understand the Tapping process, and what Tapping actually looks like in practice. 

The Tapping technique involves a few basic steps:

  1. Identify an issue to work on. You focus on something that is bothering you, like a fear or anxiety, a physical ailment, a bad memory, or an unresolved problem. 
  2. Rate the intensity of the issue on a scale from 0 to 10.
  3. Acknowledging whatever is bothering you and causing you distress, while accepting yourself fully. You create a setup statement to begin the process with, such as “Even though I have this [insert problem or emotion], I deeply and completely accept myself.”
  4. Follow the EFT Tapping sequence. You tap your fingertips on nine major Tapping points along the body’s meridians while maintaining your mental focus on the issue at hand. While you tap, you may say statements that help you to first focus on and acknowledge what you are feeling, then move towards letting go of the distress, resolving your difficult emotions, and turning towards the positive. As you tap, you might also do visualizations or bring to mind certain thoughts or memories.
  5. Rate the intensity of the issue again on a scale from 0 to 10 to assess if anything has changed for you.

Tapping is extremely simple and easy to learn. You can do it anywhere, at any time, whenever you need it!

How does Tapping work? 

Tapping combines the science and wisdom of two major healing modalities. It draws on the principles of both ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. 

Let’s learn a little bit more about each of these and what they have to do with the question, “How does Tapping work? 

Ancient Chinese acupressure

In traditional Chinese medicine practices like acupuncture and acupressure, it is believed that the body’s energy travels along certain pathways, which are known as meridians. 

Stimulation at certain points on these meridian pathways (known as acupuncture or acupressure points) is thought to improve flow of energy and bring balance back to the body. In traditional Chinese medicine, that is done by using needles or by applying physical pressure. 

The concept of meridians dates back thousands of years. And nowadays, scientific research is learning more and more about the role they may play in health and healing. Many researchers now believe that meridians are linked to the nervous system and may influence brain activity.[1-2]

Acupuncture and acupressure are both commonly used to treat a wide variety of concerns, and they have been documented to be quite effective for many conditions.

EFT Tapping is similar to acupressure, in that it uses physical touch to stimulate specific acupoints along the body’s meridians. These points are referred to as EFT Tapping points. In Tapping, you use your fingertips to gently tap on the points. 

Although there are different types of practices using a variety of alternative points, here at The Tapping Solution we usually use the standard set of nine Tapping points. The nine major Tapping points are:

  • Side of the hand (“karate chop”)
  • Eyebrow
  • Side of the eye
  • Under the eye
  • Under the nose
  • Under the mouth
  • Collarbone
  • Under the arm
  • Top of the head

Modern psychology

During Tapping, while you tap your fingertips on the EFT Tapping points, you maintain your mental focus on the issue at hand. You may also say certain statements, bring to mind certain memories, or visualize certain outcomes.

Much of the time, Tapping begins by focusing on the negative – the truth of how you feel right now. And as the Tapping exercise progresses, you begin to shift towards releasing the negative, resolving the difficult emotions, and turning toward the positive. 

The psychological aspect of Tapping draws on many different theories within modern psychology, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Neuro-linguistic programming
  • And much more

This psychological element of Tapping allows the technique to help us do things like release limiting beliefs that keep us stuck, challenge unhelpful thoughts, let go of memories or traumatic experiences, desensitize ourselves to things we might fear, and uncover and release unresolved emotional issues. 

Tapping works by calming down the brain’s fight-or-flight response

A key thing to understand about how Tapping works is that it helps to calm the nervous system.

Unfortunately, our nervous systems are activated and working in overdrive quite often. 

Maybe you receive critical feedback from your boss, are running late for picking up the kids from school, get bad news, or have to stand up in front of a large group of people to give a presentation. These are all examples of everyday situations that can be stressful. They trigger a part of your brain called the amygdala, and throw you into something called the stress response.

The amygdala is the part of your brain responsible for keeping you safe and protecting you from danger. It controls the stress response, also known as fight-or-flight, which is our natural reaction to a perceived threat. Now in our ancestor’s days, this was quite useful. It helped us to either fight or flee when faced with dangerous situations – like being chased by a tiger.

The problem is, in modern times we tend to have our amygdala in charge way more often than is really necessary. It can be triggered by routine, everyday situations.

So although there is no tiger in the woods chasing us, our brain and body reacts as if there is one – even if we might only be sitting in a traffic jam, getting close to a work deadline, taking a test, or public speaking, for example. While the amygdala is helpful if we are in a real life or death situation, it can actually be quite damaging if we are trying to feel calm and confident during a high-stakes presentation.

The power of Tapping is that it helps our brain to understand that we are not actually in any real danger… That it is safe to relax, and that it can deactivate that part of the brain and turn down that stress response.

By Tapping on the points while we think or speak about what is causing us stress, we send calming signals to the brain. This disrupts the pattern of chronic stress that we are so often trapped in, helping us to let go of the stress, overwhelm, anxiety, fear, frustration, or other difficult emotion and make room for more calm, balance, and ease as we navigate the situation moving forward.

Tapping is a way to reprogram the patterns that keep us stuck in fight-or-flight too often. It gives our brain a chance to rewire, allowing us to bring our lives back into balance without the stress response always leading the way.

There is actual evidence of this happening in the body. Studies show that Tapping lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In one study, researchers found that after just one hour of Tapping, cortisol levels went down by 43%.[3]

Tapping can also lead to reductions in heart rate and blood pressure, too.[4] It has even been associated with deactivation of certain areas of the brain.[5]

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Tapping helps to rewire the brain to respond to stress and difficult situations in a healthier way.

The best of both worlds: Tapping is a true mind-body approach

What makes Tapping so unique, and what allows it to work so well, is that it acts on many different levels. It affects us from the inside out through a true mind-body approach. 

According to Dr. Dawson Church, who has been a pioneer in exciting Tapping research, “Acupoint tapping sends signals directly to the stress centers of the mid-brain, not mediated by the frontal lobes (the thinking part, active in talk therapy).” 

Because EFT simultaneously accesses stress on physical and emotional levels, he adds, “EFT gives you the best of both worlds, body and mind, like getting a massage during a psychotherapy session.”

Ultimately, this allows Tapping to be extremely effective in calming down the entire brain and body, putting you into a state of being where you can truly feel better, heal, and move forward with more balance and ease.

The power of Tapping as a mind-body healing tool has been used in a wide variety of situations for a wide variety of concerns and problems. For example, research has shown Tapping to be effective for test anxiety, PTSD in veterans, pain and distress in healthcare workers, food cravings, depression, and much, much more.[6]

There are over 100 studies published on Tapping at this point; it is an evidence-based approach that can really make a difference.[6]

Why does Tapping work for things like physical pain, illness, or insomnia?

There’s a big body of evidence showing how effective Tapping is for health conditions like chronic pain, headaches, and insomnia.[6]

But how does EFT work for these kinds of physical ailments?

It is all about the mind-body connection. We now know that our thoughts and emotions affect how we feel in our physical bodies. And vice versa; how we feel physically also affects how we feel mentally and emotionally. 

Because Tapping can help us let go of stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, and irritability, it can help us to release the distress we may be feeling due to a number of different health conditions.

Oftentimes that stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, and irritability can make the physical problem even worse. Through EFT Tapping, you can work to resolve negative emotions and beliefs that create a high-stress environment for your body. 

Tapping can help you work towards relaxing, calming down, and moving into a state of being that encourages healing within your body. 

Many physical conditions, especially chronic ones, are tied to unresolved emotional issues. When emotions are pent up in our bodies and are not expressed, they can manifest themselves as physical problems like pain, weight management issues, sleep disruptions, illness, and more. So in some cases, Tapping can also help you to actually get to the root of the problem, allowing you to finally find relief.

Please note: As always, if you are experiencing any physical or mental health concerns, consult with a doctor, therapist, or other qualified health practitioner. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

How does Tapping work for you? Give it a try to find out

Now that we better understand the mechanisms and concepts behind Tapping to answer the question, “How does EFT work?” it is time to take things into your own hands. It is time to get Tapping!

After all, the only way to truly know how something will work for you, as an individual, is to actually do it!

I encourage you to head over to The Tapping Solution App, where you will find an entire library of guided Tapping meditations designed to walk you through the process so that you can get support for whatever it is that may be bothering you or causing you distress.

If you are new to the app, a perfect place to start is our “Intro to Tapping and the App” guided audio, which will help you learn how to Tap and get the hang of navigating the app.

Here are some great Tapping meditations you can find in the app that can help you with common problems like anxiety, stress, sleep issues, and pain. 

  • Releasing Anxiety
  • I’m Stressed About the World
  • Sleep Support: Quiet My Racing Mind
  • Instant Boost of Healing
  • Release General Pain
  • Morning: The Power of Tapping
  • Turn Your Day Around: Afternoon Reset
  • Releasing Evening Stress

Tapping really works and can be truly transformational. Are you ready to give it a try?

Until next time, this is Nick Ortner.

Keep Tapping!

References

  1. Eigenschink M, Dearing L, Dablander TE, Maier J, Sitte HH. A critical examination of the main premises of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2020;132(9-10):260-273. 
  2. Longhurst JC. Defining meridians: a modern basis of understanding. J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2010;3(2):67-74. doi:10.1016/S2005-2901(10)60014-3
  3. Stapleton P, Crighton G, Sabot D, O’Neill HM. Reexamining the effect of emotional freedom techniques on stress biochemistry: A randomized controlled trial. Psychol Trauma. 2020;12(8):869-877.
  4. Bach D, Groesbeck G, Stapleton P, Sims R, Blickheuser K, Church D. Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Improves Multiple Physiological Markers of Health. J Evid Based Integr Med. 2019;24:2515690X18823691. doi:10.1177/2515690X18823691
  5. Stapleton P, Buchan C, Mitchell I, McGrath Y, Gorton P, Carter B. An Initial Investigation of Neural Changes in Overweight Adults with Food Cravings after Emotional Freedom Techniques. OBM Integrative and Complementary Medicine. 2019;4(1):14. doi:10.21926/obm.icm.1901010.
  6. “EFT Tapping Research.” EFT Universe. https://eftuniverse.com/research-studies/eft-research.


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Over 4 Million Tapping Meditations Played in Our App!
Get Instant Access to our "Releasing Anxiety" and "Sleep Support: Quiet The Racing Mind" Tapping meditations.
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