When you think of your brain, what skills would you most like to gain to become smarter than you are today? A lot of people might wish for a photographic memory or the ability to calculate long lists of numbers in their head. These types of cognitive skills, the kind that win us awards in school and impress our friends, may not be the most important, however.
In 1995, author Daniel Goldman wrote a book called Emotional Intelligence in which he argues that the ability to regulate emotions and handle relationships (EQ) is more important than the cognitive skills we traditionally associate with intelligence (IQ). In his book, he shows that success in the world is often far more dependent on high EQ than on IQ. Since that time, people around the world have embraced this idea, looking for ways to improve emotional intelligence in themselves and in their children.
In many ways, though, it has remained an elusive goal. Our world has become ever more complex and troubled, and mental illness is on the rise in most developed countries. As a person interested in the development of the human brain, I am always looking for ways to help people with this problem. Fortunately, I have found something that is surprisingly easy and that utilizes something you might never have thought of—your belly button.
Your Second Brain in the Gut
So how could this seemingly useless thing on our bodies, our belly buttons, be related to emotional wellness? Well, that story begins with another surprising fact that you may not be aware of—your gut is an extension of your brain. The scientific name for this “second brain” is the enteric nervous system, and its health, or lack of health, has been linked to people’s moods, attitudes, and overall sense of emotional well-being. It is constructed of two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your entire gastrointestinal tract. So, when you have a “gut feeling” about something, that is probably your gut brain at work.
Microbes living in the gut are also very important to our overall emotional health and are an important part of how this brain functions. Collectively, they produce over a hundred chemicals that the brain uses to regulate physical and mental process, including many that affect emotions and mood.
The gut is responsible for the secretion of ninety-five percent of the body’s serotonin, which affects mood, digestive function, and sleep patterns. Likewise, a significant portion of the body’s dopamine, critical to motivation and focus, is also produced in the gut.
Keeping our guts healthy, therefore, is a way of keeping our emotions healthy. People are experiencing a lot of digestive distress these days, too—IBS, constipation, and acid reflux, for example—and these have been concretely linked to emotional problems, like depression, anxiety, and ADD. Belly Button Healing is a way to approach these issues from the “gut level,” in effect providing a massage that relaxes and stimulated areas that may be holding emotional tension or that have become blocked because of unhealthy diet or lack of exercise.
Solar Plexus, the Key to Transformation
The belly button has a great effect on our energy system, as well. In the last blog entry, I discussed Belly Button Healing as a way to stimulate the lower Dahnjon, the powerhouse of our body’s physical energy. The method also has direct effect on the solar plexus, which is an important energy center regulating self-esteem, willpower, and self-discipline. As such, it is also a bridge to the heart chakra, the main regulator of mind and emotions in the individual. Through the solar plexus, you can put the highest ideals of your heart to work in the world as you gain the will and energy to act. If you want to transform yourself truly—changing your attitudes and emotional habits—this area of the energy system is critical.
Belly Button Healing helps awaken the energies of the solar plexus, located three or four inches above the navel and just below the rib cage, by releasing tensions stored in that area of the body. If you have ever felt nervousness or apprehension about anything in your life, you might have noticed that this area becomes stiff and slightly sensitive to pressure. That’s the “knot in the stomach” you feel when you are really anxious. A bundle of nerves exists just below the muscles here, and all of these relate to the functioning of different organs, especially the gastrointestinal tract. The rhythmic motions of Belly Button Healing effectively massages and stimulates that area so that the nerves can function fully and so that energy can flow freely between the lower Dahnjon, the body’s powerhouse, and the heart chakra, the center of mind and emotion. In this way, you gain the will to act in a way that is in sync with your heart’s highest desires, rather than simply living to fulfill the need and desires of the body.
At first glance, the belly button is just a cute little thing on a baby’s belly, something that remains as a vestige of our time in our mother’s womb. But really, its power—the power to bring life energy to our lives—is always with us, waiting to be rediscovered.