As the stories go, many have sought, battled towards, and even claimed to have discovered the “fountain of youth.” Perhaps we can imagine the emotional state of these mythological and historical figures while embarking on their journeys. What did they feel as they were searching, when they failed, or when they uncovered this supposed fountain of youth? Their journey was outward, a search for a tangible site, but the search continued today has been conducted by modern scientists and they may have unlocked at least one source: the heart.
Have you ever felt the ache of a broken heart? The swelling of pride in your chest for someone you love? The sensation of calm washing through you when you exercise compassion?
This is your heart displaying heart intelligence. This is your heart sending signals throughout your body. Try considering this from a visual perspective: close one hand into a fist. This is the size of your heart. Now imagine 40,000 miniscule yet powerful tree-like structures sending signals through their trunks and roots into other communication networks in your arm. Yes, your heart contains approximately 40,000 neurons- as many as some subcortical sections of the brain. Your heart is smart.
Research shows that “heart feelings” have a direct effect on heart rhythm, the nervous system, and the endocrine system. Positive emotions like love, happiness, and compassion can reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol production is reduced then the production of another hormone, DHEA, is allowed to increase. DHEA has a protective and regenerative effect on systems of the body and has also been linked with delaying the aging process. Scientific studies demonstrate that feeling loved and giving love actually more strongly influence health and longevity than physical factors such as blood pressure or smoking. Feeling loved has been correlated with better heart health, such as a decreased risk for developing angina, while giving love seems to delay the aging process.
So how do you cultivate heart-rooted emotional intelligence and tap into this fountain of youth? Exercising compassion, care, and love, no matter what type of relationship, can help to increase heart intelligence and intuition, thereby decreasing stress levels and possibly increasing DHEA production. Next time you feel angry with someone, walk away or take some time to breathe for 10 minutes. Then try to think about some things you appreciate in the person. Act on your feelings after doing this and maintain awareness of your emotions while doing so and afterwards. Exercising appreciation or compassion by “walking in somebody else’s shoes”, wishing yourself and others well can help to free yourself from fear and anger, or “pain body”, and create coherent heart rhythms which have a beneficial effect on virtually every organ of the body. As your heart experiences positive emotions, your mind and body will thank you and ease into a state of calm. In the end, listening to the secrets of your heart may help to unlock the elusive “fountain of youth” or at least enable you to enjoy a cup or two from the stream nearby.