Why, Scientifically, You Should Think With Your Heart, Not Your Brain

by Francisco Alvarez

Let's take a trip down memory lane together — your memory, of course. I want you to go back in time for a brief moment and try to remember the last time you were forced to make a life-changing decision.

Did it involve getting into or leaving a relationship? Was it about securing your financial future? Perhaps moving to a different city?

Regardless of the magnitude of your decision, one thing is certain and indubitable: In order to formulate a final conclusion, you must have used your brain, heart or a combination of both.

Before you start rolling your eyes at me for stating the obvious, I want to bring awareness to a very important realization that sometimes lodges itself in our subconsciouses.

When we reach a paramount crossroad in our lives that can possibly alter it forever, an internal tug-of-war begins between your mind and gut instincts.

Next thing you know, you're tossing around ideas in your head and analyzing your options while simultaneously noticing how these choices are actually making you feel.

It's completely normal to feel overwhelmed, confused, excited and anxious all at the same time as a result of the process involved in making these commitments.

The reason why we experience all of these emotions is because they all involve pretty substantial factors that often play huge roles in the outcomes of our lives: the unknown.

Not knowing what will happen next often serves as a catalyst for hesitation, which might explain why we take longer than usual to decide whether or not to become romantically involved with someone or whether that job offer is, in fact, suitable for us.

Let's get one thing straight: Much like snowflakes, no two decisions are alike. Moreover, some decisions are much more important than others.

For example, we can't compare what we'll cook for breakfast in the morning to whether or not we should start saving for retirement tomorrow; they're worlds apart.

HeartMath, a non-profit organization, argues, "The big decisions take much more intellectual thought, clarity and focus." I, for one, happen to wholeheartedly agree. It's safe to say HeartMath believes we are critical thinkers.

However, there's always a flip side to every coin.

Baba Shiv, a professor of marketing at Stanford University, believes that when it comes to decision-making, things are complicated. Shiv strongly believes, "Harnessing the power of emotions is critical."

He explains that through empirical evidence, our brains first evaluate the options on the table analytically, but eventually use emotional interests for guidance.

Additionally, Shiv proclaims that doing so will provide us with "more confident, committed decision-making."

So, how exactly do we know if we're analytical or emotional creatures?

As it turns out, we can get to the bottom of our preferential thought processes by deciphering the methodology we use to attain formative decisions.

Analytical thinkers show a fondness for information by immersing themselves in any literature they can put their hands on. It's safe to say that this type of person is very well read.

Having so much data can render them indecisive, but at the end of the day, they will have greatly thought things through.

Needless to say, being in possession of so many statistics can cause analytical thinkers to become skeptical of the worlds around them; this can lead to adopting a loner mentality, which can also be seen as a form of independence.

Conversely, an emotional thinker plays close attention to his or her own intuition. Intuition, as you probably know, is "that unconscious reasoning that propels us to do something without telling us why or how."

Emotional thinkers pay close attention to their own conscience or, as many call it, gut feelings.

When something just isn't right, even our own bodies have ways to let us know by making us "sick to our stomachs." Emotional thinkers are no strangers to this, and, additionally, experience much of their down time being alone and engaged in thought.

Ironically enough, these thoughts have nothing to do with their actual brains, but more about releasing negative vibes that keep them from reaching viable decisions.

On a personal note, I definitely lean toward the emotional side when it comes to making decisions. Like Shiv states, I tend to analyze the cards on the table like a professional poker player would, but ultimately, I become very in-tune with my feelings.

I ask myself some key questions that serve as guidance throughout this elaborate process: What inkling or hunch is present the most? Does my decision have the potential for regret later? Will my decision be in the best interest of others, not just myself?

If the answer to any of these interrogatives is counterproductiveI tend to second-guess myself — like most of us do — and revisit my alternatives.

In case I haven't done enough to convince you, perhaps science can help me out. The interrogation of what your heart tells you has a whole new meaning. Research has shown that the heart actually sends out 60 times more electrical activity than our brains.

If that's not enough, the heart and brain can indeed join forces to work in conjunction to provide both positivity and passionate feelings.

More often than not, we tend to alienate these organs and create internal battles, when, in reality, they work decently together. One of them, however, has to win the war.

Sometimes we just have to think with the heart.