The Link between Your Heart and Head in Decision-Making - dummies

The Link between Your Heart and Head in Decision-Making

By Dawna Jones

Emotional and social data arising from interpersonal relationships and the degree of happiness or stress directly impact decision-making. The data that reaches the brain from the heart has been well documented to affect mental functions.

The heart performs an important role that goes beyond pumping blood. The heart’s 40,000 neurons are a complex information-processing center, able to sense, regulate, and remember. Sensory data (blood pressure, heart rhythm, heart rate, and so on) is processed in the heart’s neural system and transmitted to your brain by the vagus nerve and spinal cord.

Of the fibers in the vagus nerve, 90 percent are dedicated to transmitting data from the body to the brain, and only 10 percent carry instructions from the brain to the body — the largest ratio of these ascending nerve fibers are from the heart and cardiovascular system.

When you are emotional or upset (frustrated, overwhelmed, and so on), the heart rhythms have a disordered pattern, which affects many important higher brain functions such as decision-making. The distorted signals that occur when you are feeling angry, upset, unhappy, or any other negative emotion impair your cognitive functioning and access to intuition.

Conversely, when your heart is in a state of coherence — that is, when you are in a happy, calm, or peaceful state — your cognitive functions, including access to your intuition, are optimized.

The complex exchange of information between your subconscious (outside of awareness) and your conscious mind (what you’re aware of) has a large role in priming and determining the types of decisions you make. The subconscious apparatus is always evaluating the inputs to the brain to determine whether you are in an unsafe environment or a safe one, where you can be creative and grow.

Understanding this interplay between conscious and subconscious inputs helps you understand why healthy workplaces are so important to effective decision-making and higher functioning.