“Alas! There is no instinct like the heart” –Lord Byron
The heart, as in the organ in our body that controls our circulatory system, distributes oxygen and nutrients to other tissues to keep us alive. Outside of this crucial mechanical role of the heart there is much more to be desired…
Like love, and happiness.
You know, as in the simplistic drawing of two humps with a pointed tail mimicking the heart as a symbol of affection. But how, you might ask, does a group of tissues become a nationally recognized, commercially exploited, pictogram of emotion?
Within our personal relationships we talk about broken hearts, giving our heart away and being cold-hearted… this poetic language stems from the biological truth that the heart, beating inside our chest day in and day out, has much control over our emotional experiences.
Twenty-first century science has shown the connection between our physical body, our mind and our emotions. These are not separate systems but work together so that our physical bodies are at their peak shape when our mind and emotions are aligned.
The most influential physical organ on our emotions is the heart. The heart beat is the most responsive body system to how we feel. Research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that simply listening to a heartbeat triggers centers of the brain responsible for emotional outputs (Yuri).
The heart has its own set of neurons that send more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. Rhythms of the heart are recognized by the brain and influence our feelings. Irregular heartbeats resonate with negative emotions while consistent heartbeats resonate with positive emotions.
Interoception is the perception of what is happening in your own body. Being physically aware of our body can lead to better control of our emotional state. In kind, being aware of how are feeling can help us have better control of our physical health.
Does your heart lead you to love? Does it help form your experiences? Your behaviors? Your health?
The heart is wise and has a lot to tell us if we listen.
Jamil Zaki et al. 2012. “Overlapping Activity in Anterior Insula During Interoception and Emotional Experience”. NeuroImage 62(1); 493-499.
Yuri T. et al. 2011. “How does Interoceptive Awareness Interact with the Subjective Experience of Emotions? An fMRI study”. Human Brain Mapping 34(3); 598-612.
Deborah Razman, “Connecting with the Intuitive Guidance of the Heart”. Online at: https://www.scienceandnonduality.com/connecting-with-the-intuitive-guidance-of-the-heart-deborah-rozman/
Heartmath.org, 2015. “The Making of Emotions”. Online at: https://www.heartmath.org/articles-of-the-heart/science-of-the-heart/making-emotions/
Heartmath.org, 2015. “Article Explains Importance of Heart Rate Variability for your Health”. Online at: https://www.heartmath.org/articles-of-the-heart/science-of-the-heart/article-explains-importance-of-heart-rate-variability-for-your-health/
David Malone, “Of Heart and Mind” documentary. View online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xwx5fbElMfk
Dr. Mercola, 2016. “Modern Research Reveals Your Heart Does have a Mind of its Own”. Online at: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/03/05/brain-heart-emotion.aspx