Evolve Your Brain to Improve Heart-Brain Connection
First published in WNC Woman Magazine Wellness Issue
Did you know that evolving your brain improves your health and emotional well-being? This is particularly important for highly sensitive people and parents of sensitive kids. For sensitive people, being able to use your brain to moderate emotions helps you live in an emotional world without feeling overwhelmed. For parents of sensitive kids, it helps your heart and brain become more unified and congruent—and this consistency lowers stress in your kids.
As a highly sensitive kid myself, when the words adults said didn’t match the emotional energy they projected, it made them seem untrustworthy. I know now that they were just trying to protect me by being nice on the outside while trying to control anger, fear, etc. on the inside. But I experienced it as deception.
Evolving your brain is more than attending to its ongoing physical development. The more primitive Lizard brain where your survival instincts, fight/flight center and bodily functions reside is fully functional at birth. The modern complex brain—the pre-frontal cortex—physically matures by around age 25. The physical development of the pre-frontal cortex is part of natural growth, but learning to use it to serve your highest mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health is an evolutionary choice.
The evolutionary choice I am speaking of is to align your modern complex brain with your heart energy. This reduces the conflict between head and heart, and shifts deeply entrenched Lizard brain patterns of fear, anger, etc. toward the connection, intuition and emotional regulation that are qualities of an evolved pre-frontal cortex and also support a healthier body.
According to the Heartmath Institute, the heart is the strongest electromagnetic vibration in your body—60 times the amplitude of the brain. When you use your brain to override your powerful heart energy, your brain and heart come into competition and you create discord and stress in your body. In the womb, the cells that make up the brain begin in the heart and then travel up the neural tube to the brain—so the brain is pre-wired to receive heart energy. In fact, 90% of the information and energy flow between heart and brain flows upward from heart to brain. When you evolve your brain to re-establish this natural flow, your heart and brain come into harmony, stress evaporates, you get less emotionally triggered, and you tap into inner wisdom so that you are better able to mindfully choose your actions, even under stress. You make better decisions because your heart wisdom and intellect are cooperating for your highest interest rather than running competing agendas. And, your sensitive kids get a unified message from you because your words, thoughts and emotions are more congruent.
Here are three steps I use to evolve the modern brain’s power of choice and strengthen the heart-brain connection:
1) Short-Circuit the Stress Response. Whether you are in an adrenaline-fueled fight/flight or a chronic or low-level stress reaction, short-circuiting the stress response creates space between an impulse and the action you choose to take, and also between the intensity of an emotional reaction and your mindful response. To do this, simply take a slow, deep breath. This activates the vagus nerve and prompts the relaxation response. Continue taking long, slow, deep inhales and slow relaxed exhales until you feel relaxation overtake stress. This shifts you out of the reactive Lizard brain and helps you drop into a deeper, quieter experience of inner peace, intuition and inner wisdom.
2) Unplug From Stress Emotions. Even after you short-circuit a stress reaction, emotions and impulses can return. To unplug completely from them, continue to take slow deep breaths to activate the vagus nerve and imagine you are breathing in and out through the heart. As you do this, cultivate an emotion like gratitude, which deactivates reactive emotions like fear and anger. Continue to cultivate gratitude until it becomes a visceral, physical experience. That’s your signal that you’ve unplugged from the reactive Lizard brain, and you can choose your next action from inner wisdom.
3) Magnify Endorphins to Strengthen Your Heart’s Connection to the Modern Brain. Inhale the feeling of gratitude up from the heart to the brainstem. As you exhale, imagine streaming that heart energy forward to the front of the brain—where your pre-frontal cortex is. Keep doing this until the feel-good endorphins relax mind and body and come in to a unified flow. This builds a connection from your heart to your modern brain and trains your whole brain and nervous system to favor the calm stability of the complex brain even when reactive impulses get really intense.
The more you do this, the easier it gets to short-circuit toxic emotions and respond in harmony and congruence, which melts stress from your body and also lowers the stress on sensitive kids. You can cultivate abiding harmony and inner peace by using steps two and three as a mindfulness/centering practice for 20 minutes once or twice a day.
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Pushing the edges of my consciousness has been my passion for as long as I can remember. This has flowed me into writing, podcasting, and becoming a hypnotherapist to help others push past limiting perceptions and expand their awareness and possibilities, too. Welcome to my world. Thanks for visiting!