Thinking With Your Heart

Thinking With Your Heart

The sensory path to your brain has three steps, and the brain in your head doesn’t even process your experiences until they have been through the first two steps — from the gut to the heart, and yet another dimension of hidden intelligence.

Neurocardiologists, scientists in an emerging field, have discovered that the brain in the heart contains more than 40,000 nerve cells called baroreceptors. This heart brain is as large as many key areas of the brain in your head. It also has highly sophisticated computational abilities.

With every beat, a new thought or idea is communicated from your heart to the rest of your body. Like your intestinal intuition, this cardio-communication deeply influences how you perceive your world and how you react to it. The heart pumps out speech after speech and every other part of your body is in constant contact with the heart’s demands. These impulses race through the body many times faster than your blood, and it is up to your head brain to try to catch up to them and understand them. The heart also generates many neurochemicals that influence the way we act. One such chemical, atrial peptide, is a primary force in your motivation and commitment to your goals. As we discovered earlier, we need to believe in order to achieve. Well, the heart has more to do with our sense of believing than any other brain we have.

The Heart’s Sense

The brain in your heart also keeps searching for new opportunities to grow or learn, and cross references its interpretations of what those around you are feeling with its own inner state of values and passions. When people tell you to go for your dreams, no matter how far fetched those dreams may seem, people usually say something like, “Follow your heart.” There is now scientific evidence to support the idea that the heart has a dedicated sensory system perfectly calibrated to sniffing out innovative and creative opportunities.

But that’s not all: the heart’s electromagnetic field is by far the most powerful produced by the body. In fact, it is approximately 5,000 times more powerful than the field produced by the brain.

This is true of everyone to a certain degree. People ten feet away may sense exactly what you are feeling. They can even do it over the telephone, and it makes no difference what you are saying. Words are fodder for the brain in your head. Your heart will believe the feeling underneath the words. This means that those people who are most in touch with their own feelings, and the feelings of others, may be the most attuned to what’s really happening in life. It’s imperative that you focus your attention on what you can do, and what you can contribute, not what you can’t. This is one of the uncommon yet simple ways we can better draw upon the combined brilliance and potential of all three of our brains, not just one.

There is so much more to your gut and your heart than digestion and circulation. People are not machines, no matter how often personal or work relationships make us feel as though we are. It’s no wonder that when people don’t feel cared about and valued, it’s so hard to put their hearts into their life or work.

Gut feelings: Your second brain

Gut feelings: Your second brain

If you haven’t read Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, please put it on your “must do” list. Until then, consider the following…

Many of us assume that human intelligence is based solely on the brain we all know about — the one inside the cranium. It is not. Intelligence is distributed throughout the body.

Go With Your Gut

Example: Whenever you have an experience in life it does not go directly to brain one — the brain in the head — to be thought about. The first place it goes is to the neurological networks of the intestinal tract: the brain in the gut.

Every interaction you have creates an initial reaction in your gut well before it ever traverses your synapses to reach your brain. The feeling may come across as “butterflies in your stomach” or a “knot” of fear or excitement. Some people have been trained to process everything intellectually, so those people may not even notice their gut reactions.

That’s a pity, because your gut is just trying to communicate with you. It is looking out for your well-being, just as your brain is, and it’s making decisions and asking questions you may want to find out about. How important is this meeting or this challenge or this person? Is there an opportunity here? Is there a threat? Is my happiness or advancement at risk?

Known as the enteric nervous system, this “second brain” in your gut works on its own but also in conjunction with the brain in your head. Scientists who carefully examine the elaborate systems of nerve cells and neurochemicals found in the intestinal tract now tell us that there are more neurons there than in the entire spinal column — at least 100 million of them. This gives your intestine the ability to help tell your body and mind what it may be best to do or not do.

Listening to Your Alternate Brains

Many people view gut reactions as those that have not been well thought out or rationally examined. Does this make them any less reliable? No, because they are unclouded by clutter of information found in our heads. Rational decisions are often influenced by forces outside of your true self. Reaching the peak of your true potential depends on developing and applying an energizing, authentic level of intelligence and bringing it to everything you do. For this to happen, you must combine the perceptions and impressions of the gut, heart, and mind.

Think of a time when you considered all of the options and ended up listening to your gut. Did it turn out to be the best choice? It always has for me.

So, how will you handle your next big decision?  I say, “go with your gut!”