We've grown up being taught that we should make our decisions or run our lives based on rationality and logic over our emotions. However, the reality is that we need more balance between the head and the heart as the interaction between them goes beyond what we previously thought we knew and has a huge impact on our overall wellbeing and mental health.
The Science Behind the Connection
There have been lots of scientific studies that have explored the complex relationship between the brain (head) and the heart. The field of neurocardiology demonstrates that the heart communicates with the brain in ways that significantly affect how we perceive and react to the world. For instance, the heart sends more signals to the brain than the brain does to the heart. This really changes the way we view emotional experiences and decision-making.
Dr. Armour discovered that there are cells in the heart that are identical to cells in our brains.
Through his research, He found that the heart has neurons, proteins, and support cells and can learn, remember and feel. The emotions that it experiences change the information that it sends to the brain. How cool is that?
This means that the main difference between the thinking in the brain and the thinking in our heart is that the “thinking” done by the cells in our heart doesn’t have to pass through all the conditioning, mistrust, and fear that our thoughts in the brain do.
That means that they are a truer indicator of what we feel is the right thing for us.
The key to combining the power of the heart-mind connection is to use our emotions as signposts to the state of our thoughts. When we are experiencing unpleasant feelings, we are being signposted to negative thoughts or, at the very least, a mindset that needs to be investigated.
When we are feeling happy and well, excited or peaceful, then we know that our thoughts are serving us well and we are on track.
One key player in this connection is the vagus nerve, which links the brain and the heart and regulates various bodily functions, including the parasympathetic nervous system. Now this system is our rest and repair system and it helps us to be calm. We can't control the communication from vagus nerve but we can stimulate and support it through yoga, massage and singing or chanting.
Now that we know about this intricate communication system, we need to consider both cognitive and emotional aspects when addressing mental health.
Wellbeing and Mental Health
According to research, when the head and the heart are in harmony, people have reported being able to manage their emotions better, have increased resilience to stress, and generally feel better.
In contradiction, it's been shown that an imbalance may contribute to things like anxiety, depression, or chronic stress.
The Role of Conditioning
As I said at the beginning, society often conditions us to prioritise our thoughts while we undervalue the importance of our emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage our emotions and understand the emotions of others. We then grow up, in our heads being led by the part of the brain that ha assimilated all that it has learned and devised a way of keeping us safe. Unfortunately, this plan , all too often becomes a cage of fear and negative self talk. But, when we work through and break free from our conditioning, we can acknowledge and embrace our emotions as essential part of our human experience. This shift of perspective helps us to take a more holistic approach to life.
Connecting to Your Heart
Mindfulness is a very helpful way of developing our head-heart connection. Things like meditation, breathing exercises, and journaling can help us to become more aware of our emotions and thoughts. When we are seeing our emotions as signposts to be valued, we can then explore the thinking behind those emotions and challenge and change the ones that aren't supporting us.
Benefits of Living with Head-Heart Harmony
When we find balance between our heart led and our head led impulses, we are better placed to make good choices and decisions. Because we are in touch with our thoughts and our feelings and are working proactively to manage them, we become more emotionally resilient .
It often improves our relationships as we are starting to become aware of any underlying beliefs that we may hold about the other person, how our ego impacts on our relationships and how we can manage our thoughts and emotions to look for solutions to possible areas of conflict or disagreement.
An additional benefit of understanding the head, heart connection is reduced stress. Because we are more proactive, more confident in the choices we make and more comfortable in our relationships and our feelings we are more likely to enjoy a calmer, more balanced life.
So, how do we learn to listen to our emotions in a constructive way?
Firstly, we want to explore our emotions as we become aware of them.
Using questions like:
Why am I feeling like this?
What do I want from this situation?
Why do I think it should be this way?
Will help us to identify the thoughts that we are having about things that are not in our best interest. Our thoughts are often ego led and are more about a short term win that long term success.
One exercise that is really useful is the head heart, gut exercise. To do this, find somewhere quiet where you won't be disturbed.
Bring your question or issue to mind.
Become aware of all the thoughts you have about this issue and then try to grasp the quieter thoughts that usually stay hidden in the background.
When you find that thought, hold onto it and then move into your heart and see what you "feel " about the issue.
When you have your answer, hold onto it and move into your gut.
Become aware of what you know ifs the solution.
When you have it, move back into your heart and take that answer. Then move back into your head, pick up that answer and combined yo have the right decision for you.
To sum up, the head-heart connection is not just a philosophical concept it's actually a scientifically supported idea which can help us to massively improve and support our mental health and overall wellbeing.
When we have an holistic and balanced approach to our thoughts and emotions, we can learn to move away from reacting and instead chose to respond in a positive way. This empowers us to lead more rounded and fulfilling lives.
If you would like more information or would like to have a chat about the things that i have raised here, then please contact me via my website.