Take Your Brain with You: The Caveat to Following Your Heart
Yesterday I took a break from relaxing and scrolled through my social media feed.
It was a plethora of the usual. Cat videos, pictures of someone’s yummy food and drink, cooing baby photos and of course the obligatory political posts that make your butt scrunch a little when you read them. (Ah, the left and right. Two cheeks of the same…)
Fortunately (and as usual) with social media, there was also a wide array of inspiring and uplifting quotes and memes. Some from famous and philanthropic contributors, some the insightful musings of friends and family.
I always appreciate these because they give me cause to think about the ways in which I’m contributing to the deluge of information (and hopefully, inspiration) that can be found throughout social media on any given day.
But yesterday, one particular meme stood out. One that at first glance put a smile on my face and an “aww” on my lips. Then, as I thought about it, I realized the encouragement it offered would have been most effective if accompanied by a disclaimer; note of caution; caveat. Something to remind the reader that if only taken at face value, one might experience substantial disappointment.
“Only Do What Your Heart Tells You.”
Yeah, you've probably heard it too.
Now, before you jump to conclusions thinking that I don’t believe in listening to my heart, let me set the record straight. I do, in fact, believe that our heart plays a critical role in our decision making.
But it shouldn’t play the only role.
And why is that?
Because our hearts can’t always be trusted.
BTW, neither can our minds.
We see warnings from science and Scripture alike pointing us to the importance of creating and maintaining health for both.
Because they are two essential pieces of the puzzle when making decisions, setting boundaries, pursuing goals, developing character and in our overall contribution to this world.
In Scripture, we are told things like “guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” We are also told to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds”.
And in science we learn the importance of the vagus nerve. This nerve connects our brain and heart.
Further, there are exercises and interventions to help improve the tone of this nerve for optimal health.
In DBT (Dialetical Behavioral Therapy), an intervention from psychology, we discuss the importance of making decisions using our ‘wise mind’, a combination of emotion and logic, to help create overall wellness in our lives.
If I had the space and time, we could discuss the many ways in which the heart and mind work together and why it’s important to give ourselves a checkup in both areas.
Are there times when perhaps the heart should take the lead, or the mind?
I’d prefer to be leaning into my more logical side when making financial decisions. But without my heart’s intervention, I would forget about things like giving financially to help make a difference in this world.
When deciding where to take my grandsons on our day out, my heart instinctively takes the lead as I think about what will bring them the most joy. But without my mind’s intervention, I would forget about things like healthy food choices and safety. (“No boys, we can’t have chocolate pancakes and chocolate milk for breakfast. And no, you cannot climb on the roof of Gigi’s car.”)
You get my point, right?
We also need to be honest with ourselves about the health of our hearts. Our minds too.
What things have we experienced in this life that may get in the way of giving our ‘best yes’ or saying our ‘best no’ in certain situations?
It’s important to know this because we can end up harming ourselves and others. Even when we originally set out with the best of intentions.
So, while it’s a romantic and warm sentiment to think of ‘always following our heart’, it may be one of the most dangerous things we can do.
The meme reminded me today to examine how I'm making my decisions. Am I balanced? Have I been making decisions in unhealthy ways because some part of me needs attending to?
I’m grateful for the reminder to be diligent in the health of my heart and mind so I can bring the best me to every decision I face.
How about you?
Does your balance need a check today?
Is your heart in need of a little guarding?
Your mind a little transforming?
If so, you’re not alone and there are tons of helpful resources out there to assist with this.
Consider checking out Your Faithful Brain: Designed for So Much More! by Dr. Leonard Matheson. (Guidebook, written by Dondra Agovino and myself, to publish early 2019. For info on how to join it’s launch team, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
You can also find additional information on ‘wise mind’ and vagus nerve tone through the internet.
If exploring this subject is difficult and you want to dig deeper for yourself, there are many qualified counseling professionals out there who can help you.
If you need help in locating one or knowing what questions to ask, email me at the above address.
Happy Balancing, y’all!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a little ‘transforming’ to do of my own.
Hearts and minds unite!