as published in issue 9 of The Inspired Guide Magazine
What rules the body – the heart or the brain?
For a long time, cognition has been thought to be the governing body of the human body, however, research has now come through showing that the heart plays a major role aswell. Scientific studies have shown that the “heart generates more energy than any other organ in the body, producing an electromagnetic field that is 5000 times more powerful than that emitted by the brain” (O,Dell).
How could the heart be so much more powerful?
Studies have shown that the heart is its own conscious working memory and its own nervous systems with cells, neurons, proteins and neurotransmitters. It can work completely separately from the brain experiencing things on a different level.
How does the heart work in with the brain and the body?
Studies have shown that the heart actually communicates to the brain through a variety of rhythms which alter cognition and physiological state of the body. For example, studies have shown that if the heart rhythm is coherent (feeling grateful, love and happiness) or in a state of balance the message sent to the brain is one of clarity. “This can increase creativity and improves decision making, as well as influencing positive states of emotion” (O’Dell), which leads to overall health and well-being.
What does this mean from a practical sense?
What we feel matters as it can influence our cognition and physiology. If we feel happy, grateful and loving, we can increase our levels of cognition opening the door to creativity, higher function decision making, and overall health and well-being.
It could be safe to assume then that if we feel unhappy, resentful and hatred, then we can decrease our levels of cognition, finding it difficult to be creative, having a low-level or primal cognitive functioning and decreasing our overall health and well-being.
What can we do to strengthen our heart in feelings of happiness, gratitude and love?
There are many practices we can do to strengthen our heart in feeling these feelings. And the good news is, the more we practice these feelings the more it will become habit to feel this way and the more we increase the strength of our neural pathways connecting in this way (and vice versa). To strengthen our positive uplifting heart feelings we can:
- Have a daily gratitude practice (each day note down the things you are grateful for from today. Before long you may even notice you are grateful for the challenges in your life because they allow you to see/give you new experiences etc). Gratitude is feeling thankful for what you have, and what you have experienced rather than wishing things were different.
- Have a daily loving kindness practice. You can do this through meditation, visualisation, journaling, etc… It is a process where you wish yourself, those you know, those you see everyday, and strangers love, kindness and well wishes. This is my favourite meditation as follows:
Loving kindness meditation:
- Find a nice comfortable position. If you are sitting up, ensure your back is straight and supported. If you are lying down ensure your legs and arms have space to sense (arms slightly away from the body, palms up, and legs slightly apart, feet relaxed/splaying out).
- Take a few nice deep breaths.
- Notice your body on the floor/chair, particularly where your body makes contact with that supporting you. Notice the temperature in the room, any other body sensations.
- Notice the sounds both inside and outside the room.
- Notice the smells.
- When you are ready, imagine that you are walking down the road by your house. It is a beautiful day, the sun is shining and you have all the time in the world.
- You notice a small animal crying in the bushes to your left. You kneel down and peel back the bush to find a small animal (kitten/puppy/whatever you choose), it is disheveled, hungry, and it needs your help.
- You gently talk to this little being, asking if it would like your help. It comes to you uncertain, a bit worried that you might hurt it or be unkind. You assure it that you only want to help it and that you will take loving care of it. It shows you that it is ready.
- You pick up this little being and take it home to clean it up. As you are carrying this little being you notice your heart center filling with love for this little being, you see past the dirt, the tastiness, and you can see that this being is just a product of a lack of love.
- You lovingly give it some food and water that you have prepared. You gently and respectfully clean this little being, and then you hold it in the palm of your hands looking at this young animal in amazement.
- As you are holding this animal, you notice that your love for this animal is growing. You can feel your heart center warming and increasing in size. Your shoulders might move back, your back becoming more upright. Your heart may feel like it is glowing or radiating a warm light of love.
- The little being senses this heart energy radiating from you and responds through its heart growing and radiating a warm love energy toward you.
- When you are ready place this little being down now, informing them that it will have a home with you for as long as they want one.
- Take this increased love energy with you throughout your day, and know that anyone acting unkind is simply the product of a lack of love…. Could you be the person to show them love and kindness like to you did to the little being?
- Volunteer your time to help someone – this doesn’t need to be an ongoing thing, it doesn’t need to be volunteering for an organisation, it could be just putting someones trolley away for them at the supermarket, or offering a hand to a parent who has his/her hands full and a crying child…. Giving of anything, but particularly your time where you have an interaction with another person/animal where there will be an exchange in energy (often gratitude) is an amazing feeling.
- Notice your thoughts – our thoughts are a great way of letting us know how we are doing in terms of well-being. If our thoughts are kind and loving, all is well. If they are unkind and resentful then perhaps we are having a hard time with something. Trying to flip the coin on our negative or challenging thoughts can be a great way to rewire our brain to gratitude. For example – “She just took all the chips, how could she do that?!”, to “She must be really hungry or really like chips… I’m so glad that I didn’t really need any right now”. Just changing the way we word things and the stories we tell ourselves can have a huge impact on the way we view the world.
- Be loving and kind to yourself – this can be the hardest thing to do at times, especially when we are having a rough time. All of these other three actions will help you to be a bit easier on yourself, but if you are berating yourself for something, try flipping the coin and letting yourself know that it’s ok, you are ok. Everyone makes mistakes and that’s how we learn… and if we make the same one over and over again, it is just us letting ourselves know we are still practicing making this mistake – we haven’t yet mastered it 😊
So give these a go and notice what happens…. All of this does take time, so be patient. It’s like learning a new skill, you don’t expect to be able to be proficient at it on the first day…. (even though we would like to)… so be patient. I’d love to hear how you find it.
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