Have you ever wondered if emotions affect your physical heart? Because guess what my friend, emotions and heart health are very connected. Heart disease, heart attack, and strokes are all linked to our emotional health.
If you’re like most people you think of emotions as coming from your heart but probably don’t think about emotions effect on your actual heart.
So today, we’re going to explore the vast world of emotions and what they can do to our heart. We’re going to start by looking at what emotions are and look at their effects on our heart.
Then, we’ll finish with 7 actionable steps for keeping your emotions and heart healthy.
Are you ready to dive into emotions?
What are Emotions?
Answering the “what are emotions” question is complicated. They’re so complicated that there’s no agreed upon definition for emotions.
Psychologists, scientists, and even theologians differ in how they define emotions and because of this, you’re told there’s anywhere between 5 and 30 of them.
What are emotions?
I define them as feelings, given to us by God, so we’re able to express all we experience.
Scientifically they’re a “neural impulse that moves us to action”. And psychologists define them as “a complex state of feeling that results in physical and psychological changes that influence thought and behavior.”
Emotions aren’t actually processed in your heart though. They’re processed in an area of your brain called the limbic system. Parts of the brain such as the hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus are all part of this system.
The hippocampus is where new information is consolidated into long-term memories. Two almond-shaped areas known as the amygdala, are involved in memories, decision making, and emotions.
Finally, the hypothalamus keeps our body in homeostasis (balanced) and links our nervous and endocrine systems together. The effect emotions have on blood pressure, stress hormones, and many other things all depend on this linking.
I pray this brief glimpse into how God created our brains helps explain the connection between our emotions, memories, and the decisions we make.
Have you ever noticed how many verses are in the Bible telling us how we’re to handle our emotions? God, being the all-knowing God that He is, must have known we’d need help figuring out how to deal with emotions.
Another reason might be because of what emotions can do to our health, including their effect on our heart.
Luke 6:45 says
“The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.”
And in Proverbs 4:23 we’re told to:
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
God’s telling us our hearts matter and I pray this post helps you “keep your heart with all vigilance.”
First it’s important to realize that emotions aren’t bad. Even Jesus got angry and sad.
Because when we don’t, emotions can negatively affect more than just our heart health.
Now let’s look at our hearts’ response to emotions.
Emotions and Heart Health
Because there’s so many emotions I’m going to briefly list out three key ways emotions affect the health of our heart. If you want to dig deeper into these things the links are at the bottom of this post.
Social isolation and not being part of meaningful relationships is associated with making you 3-5 times more susceptible to developing heart disease. The people in this study who maintained strong cultural and social bonds didn’t develop negative heart health issues.
It was the emotion of loneliness that was connected to increased rates of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
This study looked at how unhealthy relationships affect the heart. And it’s probably not surprising that emotionally or physically harmful relationships can increase the risk for coronary events.
When these relationships lead to depression, the risk for negative effects on your heart are even higher.
Whether you express anger through hostility, aggressiveness or bottle it up, research shows that all forms of anger can contribute to heart disease.
Another emotion many of us struggle with in some way is stress. And because stress is such a big topic we’re going to look at it in more depth.
But before we do that, I want to encourage you.
If you’re struggling with overwhelming loneliness, depression, anger, or stress – seek help. Go to your pastors or find a Christian counselor in your area.
Asking for help is a brave, bold thing to do. It’s not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength.
We also have some additional resources at the bottom of this post.
God is for you and I believe He’d tell you the same thing He told Joshua:
Be strong dear friend as you see what emotional stress does to the heart.
Then take courage, and pray about which of the 7 steps God wants you to act on.
What Does Emotional Stress Do To The Heart
Remember the amygdala we talked about earlier? That area of your brain involved in memory, decision making, and emotional responses?
Well, some of the emotions it processes are intense emotions like stress, anxiety, and fear.
Any idea what these emotions are linked to?
Heart disease and heart attack risk, as well as other cardiovascular events.
Stress causes your heart rate to increase, blood pressure to go up, and then stress hormones are released. Each of these things stresses your heart, causing it to work harder. All forms of stress also tell your body to make more white blood cells.
White blood cells (WBCs) are part of your immune system’s way of protecting you. But this WBC protection also causes inflammation, and that can cause plaque build-up on your arteries.
That’s what leads to the development of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack and stroke.
It’s important to realize stress does this.
Because it starts long before you’re diagnosed with heart disease, or have a heart attack or stroke.
Emotional stress & women
And dear woman, you and I are more susceptible to developing these stress-related heart problems then men are. The toll of emotional stress impacts a womans heart 10 years earlier than it does a man’s.
This quote from Dr. Tawakol, a cardiologist, is so true:
“We often say we need to “deal” with our stress, as if it’s just a nuisance we have to tolerate. But we probably need to change our mindset to focus on treating stress if it’s indeed as toxic as we are now realizing.”
So…Are you ready for some steps to keep your heart and emotions healthy?
7 Steps to Keep Your Heart & Emotions Healthy
If you’re a Christian, you’ve got some amazingly powerful tools for keeping your heart and emotions healthy.
And in addition to the power of God Most High dwelling inside of you, you have God’s Word and prayer.
These are the three things the next 7 steps rely on.
If you’d like more information about these things check out these posts:
- Three Things You Need to Know
- Meditating on God’s Word: A walk through Psalm 119
- Pray Without Ceasing: Your what, why, & how-to guide
You can download a PDF with the next 7 Bible verse graphics here.
1. Be slow to anger.
The moment you feel a spark of anger, quickly turn to God in prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you ears that hear and to help you not get angry. When you’ve removed yourself from the situation ask the Holy Spirit to show you why the situation made you angry.
- Was it righteous anger?
- Anger because you felt hurt?
- Or anger because you didn’t feel heard, understood, or appreciated?
Consider memorizing this verse and journaling about what happens as you learn to slow your anger.
2. Walk in the Spirit.
This passage is full of emotional contrasts – emotions of our flesh versus the Spirit who lives inside of us. Each of these things also flows from our heart and God wants us to have healthy hearts and emotions. And…
He knows we can only have those things if we’re “walking in the Spirit”.
- Which of the things in this passage are you struggling with?
- Write them down and then write out a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to help you bear good, heart healthy fruit.
3. Supplement your faith.
Look at how this passage progresses. It doesn’t start with love, it starts with faith and then we’re asked to supplement our faith.
Right now, where do you feel you’re emotionally at?
- What could you do so you’re progressing to the end goal of love?
Spending time in prayer, reading God’s Word, going to church, and being part of a Bible study are all ways you can supplement your faith. Put steps in place and protect the health of your emotional and physical heart.
4. Don’t do it alone.
God knows we can’t do anything in life on our own. That’s why Jesus left us with the same help He had, the Holy Spirit. But sometimes you need the help of a pastor or counselor as well.
- If you’re struggling with any form of overwhelming emotions – give them to God, ask the Holy Spirit for help, and seek additional help if needed.
5. Maintain unity.
Being humble and gentle isn’t easy but it’s something Christians are called to.
Think about how gentle and loving God is. Then, think about how Jesus humbly handled all of the difficult situations He was faced with.
- Where do you need to exchange unhealthy emotions for humility, gentleness, patience, and love?
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you put these things into practice.
And remember, be patient with yourself and with God’s perfect plan for you.
6. Choose self-control.
Self-control is a virtue that’s beneficial in all areas of our lives – emotions included. In the Old Testament, cities had big protective walls to keep people from harm. This verse is saying that without self-control we’re left vulnerable, and anything can come in and rob us blind.
- How has a lack of emotional control left you feeling?
Write down the different ways emotional self-control could benefit you. Then write out some action steps you could take the next time emotions well up.
7. Let peace rule.
The peace of Christ should sit on the throne of our heart. Not stress, anxiety, worry, anger, depression, sadness, jealousy, or any other misplaced emotion.
- What emotions are ruling your heart?
Write this verse out and put it in your car, at your desk, on your mirror, everywhere you need to be reminded of it. Then, ask God to forgive you for allowing anything to rule your heart- except for Him. Also ask Him to take your emotions and replace them with His perfect peace.
Emotional Health Resource
The health of our heart and emotions is a big weighty subject and I want you to walk away from this post encouraged.
Yes, emotions can damage our heart and lead to heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes. But dear woman, God’s Word is powerful and mighty to save.
The pages of Scripture are full of emotions, full of guidance for how to handle them, and encouragement for when we’re struggling with our emotions.
Because I don’t want you feeling like you’ve got to “help yourself”, I didn’t include any of the many “self-help” steps I could have written.
I know you’ve got enough to do.
My prayer is that the 7 steps for emotional and heart health leave you empowered. That you walk away from this post relying on the Spirit of God and knowing God is for you.
I also pray you’d trust God to heal your heart and bring you to bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Until next time remember...
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
So go, and use God’s Word as the powerful tool it is and watch how it changes the health of your heart and emotions.
If you’d like more information, and steps, for dealing with some of the emotions we talked about today, check out these posts.
- Three Steps for Burying Negative Thoughts
- 20 Highly Effective Ways to Relieve Stress
- What the Bible Says to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed
- How to Remember God’s Goodness and Faithfulness
- How to Have Joy Like No Other – Even when life’s hard
- How to Have Hope When It All Seems Hopeless
- 3 Lessons from Jesus on Loving Difficult People
- Lessons from David on Handling Stress