When we experience traumatic incidents in our lives (or an accumulation of repeated  similar incidents) such as pain, loss, abuse, and so on, the strength of the corresponding emotional quotient turns on a survival center in our brains. That center is called the amygdala. Because the experience was painful, the activation of the amygdala serves to protect us from the situation happening again. In other words, it’s an unconscious response to an external situation designed for self-preservation.

The more times you experience the trauma, or revisit on a daily basis the emotions of the suffering caused by it (that is to say the more times the amygdala turns on), it’s as if your brain continuously sets itself to a new baseline—a baseline that is not connected to love, joy, balance, or homeostasis. Instead, it’s based in the hormones of stress, and as we all know, living in the hormones of stress for extended periods of time has serious health consequences.

If your senses are always sweeping the environment to determine what is safe and/or what is not, if something in your environment triggers an association to the memory of that trauma, as the amygdala switches on, you’re back to living in your past and anticipating that future event happening again. This subconscious mechanism is an evolutionary trait that enables us to adapt to, or at least deal with, the trauma that knocked us out of balance—and to help us be prepared if it happens again.

It was always my understanding that it was the frontal lobe that lowers the volume to those strong emotional centers—that it was the frontal lobe that allowed us to begin to quieten down those survival centers. In this paradigm, the brain is the control center of the body.  Recently, however, my friends at the HeartMath Institute showed me some interesting research that made me think differently.

In the research, they pointed out that there are afferent nerve fibers that go directly from the heart to the brain. Not only do they go directly to the brain, but they go directly to the amygdala. Why is this important? Because the research demonstrates that when you open your heart and feel love—I’m talking really surrendering fully to love—the power of that profound love can create a new baseline in your brain and body’s survival systems. This means that the heart, in fact, is also the command center of the body, as well as the brain.

So what is the power of love and how does love heal? When we truly open our hearts, let go of the past, and forgive, we reset our baseline into a more harmonious, more elevated state. This in turn brings us into a state of homeostasis, and by returning to a state of homeostasis, we free ourselves from the past. And when we free ourselves from the past, we gain a new freedom to create our future.

I’d say it can’t hurt to put your heart into everything you do.