It sounds a bit silly, but really, what is a brain? While traditional wisdom points us to the squishy matter between your ears, that’s not necessarily the case. Recent research aims to make a much clearer distinction on what makes a brain, well, a brain.
The verdict? A brain is not a singular body part. It is any element of the body capable of learning. And here’s the kicker — we have three:
Understanding the Brains in Our Body
The head, the heart, and the gut hold immense capabilities to gather, process, store, and act upon information. They handle intricate operations (both dependently and independently) using their own dedicated nervous systems — complete with billions of neurons that allow them to grow, flex, and react.
This impressive quality to learn is where they derive their intense abilities to change our mental, emotional, and physical state. And in a world dead-focused on the brain in our head, the brains in our heart and gut are learning to make some noise as they find themselves continually underserved.
The three brains, when working together, don’t lie. I know this from personal experience. When we listen to our bodies, and give attention to each brain within, we can accomplish amazing things. We can find ourselves healthier, happier, and more engaged at home, at work, and in life.
Let’s break down the three brains and explore how these powerhouses work together.
Brain #1: The Brain in Your Head.
This is what you automatically think of when you hear the word, “brain.” Your head brain has 86 billion neurons, the cells that process and transmit information. It’s where synapses, electrical impulses, and hormones talk to each other, which is what allows for consciousness and awareness. Most importantly, it’s what gives you the ability to identify patterns and make sense of the world.
Brain #2: The Brain in Your Heart.
Yep, your heart has a brain, too. Your heart houses more than 39 million neurons. It’s not nearly as many as the head, but it fills this gap with generating the largest electromagnetic field in the body. The heart sends as many messages to the head brain as it receives. Researchers in the field of energy cardiology have discovered that your heart creates thinking hormones similar to the type created in the head brain.
Brain #3: The Brain in Your Gut.
Your gut brain consists of two nerve centers called the myenteric and the submucosal, which have approximately 100 million neurons. This is more than the spinal cord. The gut produces 70 percent of the hormone cortisol, which is released during stressful periods to regulate metabolism, control blood pressure, and assist with memory formulation. This gut brain is also responsible for processing information during sleep. 70 percent of serotonin — the neurotransmitter responsible for relaying signals across the brain to help you think clearer — is produced in the gut.
When you learn to listen to all three brains, something remarkable happens: you finally go all-in at home, at work, and in life. You are truly engaged.
Bringing Biology to Work
When you hear “engagement” you often think of employee engagement. And it makes sense, we spend one-third of our lives working, shouldn’t we be engaged during that time?
In a world where 70% of the workforce is disengaged, we often wonder why so many trudge through life — acting as shells of themselves. Unmotivated and apathetic. But when you bring this science into the conversation — the shadows quickly dissipate.
Are we doing enough to lead with our gut? Are we listening to the brain in our heart? Are we enriching everything we do with passion; with actions that feel right in our bones?
If your workplace is lacking these critical elements — experiences that enrich and inspire — what’s the point? Today, employees see the grass is greener on the other side. They’re willing to jump ship when they feel somethings missing (even if they can’t place their finger on the biologic-motives behind this feeling). They hop office-to-office until they find a company that’s got it right. Until they discover work that enriches both body and mind.
It’s time to shift our thinking from dogma to data, from story to science, as we shift to purposeful engagement with the work world. When we care for ourselves enough to transform our work, we take the crucial step in beginning to properly care for others and our planet.
Ready to Shift