What does the heart have to do with learning? We assume that the brain is the primary organ responsible for acquiring knowledge and skills. Scientific research has unraveled the connection between the heart and learning. The study highlights that the brain and heart are partners in learning and we should understand their unique roles.
In this article, we will uncover the significance of the heart in learning, how the organ creates a harmony that enhances learning, and learn actionable tips to help us learn better.
The Heart’s Role in Emotions and Learning
The heart is the communicator in the body. It has an extensive communication system that sends hormonal signals to the brain. This system prioritizes information, serves as a soothing entity and exerts a profound influence on decision making and emotional balance.
How does the heart communicate with the body to influence our learning experiences?
1. Heart rate variability
HRV is a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat. Heart rhythms are responsive to changes in emotional states. During periods of stress and negative emotions, heart rhythms become erratic and disordered. This indicates a lack of synchronization between the branches of the autonomic nervous system. This lack of harmony negatively impacts cognitive functions, hindering clear thinking, focus, memory recall, learning, and reasoning.
Positive emotions, such as appreciation, love, and compassion, are associated with highly ordered and coherent heart rhythm patterns. These reflect greater synchronization between the autonomic nervous system branches, resulting in enhanced cognitive performance, emotional stability, focus, memory, comprehension, and creativity.
2. Physiological Coherence
Physiological coherence refers to a state of increased harmony and synchronization within the body, brain, and nervous system.
In this state, heart rhythms exhibit a smooth pattern, and there is decreased activation of the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and increased parasympathetic (rest and digest) activity. The more coherent and “in sync” we are, the better our cognitive abilities.
Increasing physiological coherence through heart-focused techniques yields a range of benefits for learners.
How can we focus on the heart to learn better?
1. Practice Learning Rituals
Learning rituals promote physiological coherence and enhance cognitive performance. Begin learning with rituals that help center your energy. For example, a two-minute breathing exercise before you begin your course or writing in your journal about your goal for your class. Rituals, in the most practical way, are creating separation between other life activities and learning, and giving your learning experience the focus it deserves.
2. Practice HeartMath Techniques
Explore HeartMath techniques like Freeze-Frame, Attitude Breathing, and Heart Lock-In. These simple techniques help restructure emotions, reduce stress, and increase physiological coherence. Incorporate them into your daily routine to build emotional resilience and improve learning outcomes.
3. Practice Emotional Zoning
One of the barriers to learning is our attention. We have distractions that move us away from the task at hand. If you have had a difficult day at home, it slides over to the rest of your zones – work, learning, workout, and so on. Practicing emotional zoning is a way to leave emotions to their respective zones instead of carrying them over.
Some tactics for emotional zoning are:
- Counting backward – Count backward from 100, to recalibrate your heart rhythms and breathing. This activity will help bring you back to the present and help you prioritize the zone you are in.
- Mini-workouts – Research has shown us the effectiveness of a short workout on our emotions. Exercise is the most natural emotion regulator. A quick run, and 5 min yoga practice help you center.
The heart and brain are like partners in learning. They have their strengths, but the goal is common – prioritize the learner, their mindset, and their emotions.
Imagine the heart is like a violin – it needs to be tuned to be harmonious. The heart does the exact same thing for our learning experiences. The heart tunes the learner to learn better.