Are you an over-thinker? Do you have a busy mind that has the ability to prevent you from falling asleep? That makes focus often seem impossible? Is it like you can never find the “off button”?
I hear you. I’ve been there many times before. And so many of my clients feel the same when we start working together.
I cannot address individually what the root cause of your overthinking is for you. This takes a deeper exploration. But what I can say is that for each person I have worked with on this topic, a big part of the puzzle is getting them back in their bodies rather than trying to “switch off” the mind.
You may think this sounds like an esoteric concept. To illustrate why it’s not, I want to share a crude example...
Have you ever seen a chicken have it’s head cut off? They don’t become immediately lifeless, they run about for a while first, even without a head. The body contains not only muscle memory, but a nervous system which is capable of controlling you as if on autopilot.
You are not your head.
You are a system of systems, all interconnected and influencing each other on a continuous basis. You are receiving inputs from your environment all the time, and your nervous system is processing all that information and directing much of your experience on an unconscious level. Our nervous system comprises the brain, sensory organs (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, tongue), spinal cord, vagus nerve and other peripheral nerves.
Have you heard about the heart-brain connection?
Whilst we imagine the brain to be the control centre of the body, there is another organ that the brain speaks to regularly that deserves a lot more attention when it comes to emotional regulation.
In 1991, Dr Andrew Armour discovered that the heart has its own nervous system - a collection of neurons that play many roles including pain modulation as well as emotional, cognitive, and social regulation. This system is connected to and communicates consistently with our brain.
The heart begins to form in utero before the brain, meaning the heart is where our life really begins. The end of our life is also marked by the cessation of our heart beat. That rhythmic beat you feel inside your body right now, has always been, and always will be, as long as you live.
Okay… so what does this all mean?
Thought of as the source of emotions, desire, and wisdom, the heart has been regarded as an incredibly important organ throughout history, no matter which cultures you look to. However, in the treatment of mental and emotional difficulties and disorders today, we rarely talk about the heart beyond its symbolic significance.
Perhaps it’s time that changed.
With modern science, we’ve been able to learn that our heart really does direct much of our experience. In fact, more signals are sent from the heart to the brain than from the brain to the heart. Our heart also generates an electromagnetic field of about 1.5 metres (6ft), potentially sharing information with others that we come in close proximity with on an energetic level (it may be more, but the current technology used to measure this field has its limitations). Before your rational mind dismisses this idea, take yourself back to a moment when you walked into a room and could feel an uncomfortable energy - like there had just been a fight, some bad news or someone just hung up the phone from a difficult conversation. Could this be the experience of the heart?
What if we could tune back in to the power of the heart and be able to act from that knowing, rather than feeling a constant need to re-act to what is happening around us? What if we could move away from living in that busy, story-filled head that proves to be so exhausting for us? That sounds like true inner peace to me.
From head to heart - the longest journey in the world
Many successful people credit their achievements to mindset - controlling their mind in a more powerful way. But perhaps what is really going on, is that these people are able to tap into the wisdom of their hearts rather than remain trapped in the busyness in their minds, which is often impacted by stories and limiting beliefs we pick up throughout our lives.
The journey of shifting our presence from our head to our heart is said to be one of the longest journeys we can take. If you’re ready to get out of your head and into your heart, where you can live more powerfully, here are three tools to help you along the way.
And remember, as with anything worth sustaining, it’s a practice... not a switch.
1. Become the observer - the more you are able to assess which centre your emotional experience is coming from, the more control you will be able to have over it. The heart is wise, and fast. If you are wondering whether you’re tuning into your intuition or you’re acting out of fear, look for the stories. If you have a lot of narrative around your “gut feeling”, probably the mind is taking over, and it’s not really a gut feeling at all. Don’t act too hastily on this kind of feeling. Take some time out.
2. Get quiet - your heart, like a wise elder, doesn’t scream. It speaks softly and with confidence and all-knowing. If what is arising for you is uncomfortable and loud and inescapable, you’re in the mind. To hear the wisdom of your heart, you need to find some quiet and stillness. Walking, stretching, sitting in meditation if that’s something for you, journaling. Or even sipping warm tea as you look out of the window. Mindfulness practices are powerful in creating some space for the messages of your heart to come through.
3. Practice being in your body - recall that you are not your head. You are so much more, and your body is taking care of you 24/7, 365 days a year (366 in a leap year!). Look to incorporate new rituals which connect you to your body. Some examples are breathwork, self-massage, dry body brushing, cold showering/swimming, walking barefoot, especially outside (also known as grounding), and stillness through movement practices such as yoga, qi gong or tai chi. Even the simplicity of taking a couple of minutes each day just to notice and feel your own heart beat will begin to create some shifts inside you.
You don’t have to go anywhere
Your heart contains so much more wisdom than you could ever imagine. While the mind is busy trying to protect us from pain and move us toward pleasure, creating stories to help make sense of the world, peace is available inside. Wisdom is available inside.
It’s not something you have to make or create, it’s something that has always been with you. The journey is in the uncovering and letting go of what lies in between. Stay curious, apply lashings of compassion, and as always, enjoy the process.