From Shakespeare to Janis Joplin to The Backstreet Boys, whether through song or poetry, no aspect to our human bodies is more romanticized than the heart—and for good reason. The continuously beating organ serves as an internal control center from which all other parts of our being draw life and vitality. Without it, we would cease to function. With it, we breathe, move and thrive.
But like Shakespeare, Joplin and BSB profess in their work, the heart does so much more than sustain our life force. In fact, it’s capable of a multitude of bold, amazing and unexpected things, all of which play an integral role in giving your life purpose and passion.
Here are five of those wondrous, awe-inspiring tasks that your heart is capable of carrying out each and every day (without you even realizing it).
The heart performs highly intricate, high-volume tasks each day—without you even having to think about it
While the brain is often touted as the human body’s biggest and most defining achievement, we beg to differ. Each and every day, your heart moves through a series of repetitious functions, all coordinating harmoniously to pump blood like clockwork. According to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, the average heart beats roughly 100,000 times per day, with 1.5 gallons of blood being pumped each minute. What’s more, the heart acts as a coordinated machine, with the right side pumping blood into the lungs while the left side pumps it back into the body.
The best part? Your heart is doing all of this hard work completely and utterly behind the scenes. Unless you’re actually checking your pulse, the beat of your heart (and all the work funneled into each beat) goes pretty much unnoticed. Talk about an unsung hero.
The heart gives us a sense of soul
According to Elaine Beth Cohen, a life and wellness coach, the heart is critical for bestowing one significant trait within us: soulfulness.
“In my mind, what is being addressed when we talk about ‘heart’ is a reference to soulfulness,” she says. “A soulful person acts and reacts to life from a position of deep understanding and consciousness. They generally live aligned with what they have seen and experienced in a touching and poignant way.”
Cohen offers up an particularly relatable example: “Consider how it feels when you listen to music that feels soulful. Immediately, a feeling washes over us, an inner thrill, an emotional elevation and knowing connection.”
Feeling a sense of redemption and release after blasting T-Swift or Adele in your car after a breakup? That’s your heart’s soulfulness saying hello.
The heart gives us clarity through breakups and grief
Speaking of breakups, the heart plays an integral role in our recovery from emotional trauma. And as Cohen explains, this healing comes from the soul.
“Our soul feels emotions and is tremendously helpful in cultivating a rich and meaningful life,” she says. “For example, when grieving after a loss or breakup, disappointment or failure, we feel our soul. If we miss out on the feeling of sadness and despair, our soul is stifled and dismissed. If we deny or avoid our most heartfelt desires, our soul is thwarted. If we unleash our soul, our heart, and live life fully, we heal, grow, and reach the completest expressions of fulfillment and satisfaction.”
While feelings of sadness, despair and disillusion are inevitable when facing emotional trauma, think of it as necessary despair. That sense of being overwhelmed will ultimately make you stronger.
The heart can help you push through the last leg of your workout (but not necessarily in the way you think)
When it comes to really giving it our all in a workout class, we tend to think of our heart as the organ that pumps more blood to our muscles and, in turn, makes us physically stronger. But according to Cohen, that physical boost is only the beginning of the heart’s role in making you stronger.
“The heart or strong desires play an integral part in the effort, “ she explains. “We don’t always feel energetic or inspired to workout, but the soul and heart kicks in and fuels our desire to compete.”
She offers an example of her own. “When I was running a race earlier this year in Central Park, I broke the race into three separate races. The first race was one where I focused on not running too fast. The second race was to let my body go and run freely. The last third was all heart and soul in charge. In these moment, my desire kicked in and the feeling of imagining finishing the whole challenge was top of mind. I harness my soul and ran my heart out.”
Ever hear your instructor coerce you to “give it all you got” in the final moments of class, despite having gone through 50 minutes of agony already? That’s because she knows your heart is capable of providing that extra push, despite you not believing it!
The heart will continue beating—even when removed from a body
As the Cleveland Clinic Foundation explains, the heart will continue to beat momentarily when removed from the body. While this might incite visions of a horror movie in your mind, the truth couldn’t be more opposite.
Think of your heart as your unrelentingly loyal teammate. It works in tandem with you until (or past) your last breath, a near-separate entity whose sole purpose is to provide you with life. That’s a pretty amazingly dedicated partner if we’ve ever heard of one.