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Today in Health & Wellness
BEYOND BODY

Mending a Broken Heart

By: Jose Maria M. Villarama IIMending a Broken Heart

A song popularized by an Australian group in the early 1990s goes: “You really know where to start/ Fixing a broken heart/You really know what to do/Your emotional tools/Can cure any fool/Whose dreams have fallen apart?/Fixing a broken heart.”  While everyone, most especially Filipinos, really took the song to heart, several questions still remain unanswered: How does one fix a broken heart? Are there really emotional (or other) tools that can mend it?

Heart-Mind Link

Before one can even begin to talk about healing a broken heart, one should first know what it is.  Some say it’s merely a passing feeling, an emotional upset that is felt after a break up with a date, partner or spouse, but something which can eventually be overcome – in time.

Medically speaking, there is also such a thing as “broken heart syndrome. It is likened to a traditional heart attack and happens when the sympathetic nervous system is triggered and the body unleashes a flood of chemicals that can stun the heart, making it unable to pump properly. Such a physiological event can happen when someone experiences an accident, a death in the family member or a fight and flight situation, say a crime. 

However, this article will not discuss that. Being the love month, this article will focus on how to mend a heartbreak in the context of a relationship. It is, however, important to remember that the mind and the heart are closely connected to each other and that harboring negative thoughts and feelings, in general, are bad for the health. Thinking or dwelling too much on something, say a relationship break up, can cause emotional stress and depression and can lead to cardiovascular problems, as studies by both psychologists and cardiologists have revealed. 

The How-Tos

With this knowledge of the heart and mind connection, one can try several approaches to address a broken heart.  Obviously, recovery will depend on several factors, including the amount of emotion one has invested in a relationship, the length of time spent with a partner, and the circumstances that led to the break-up, among other things.  The following recommendations may not be fool-proof but will hopefully, or at the very least, ease the pain of a broken heart.

  • Going through it – This is actually the first and most difficult step. Many therapists and counsellors may break this down further into several levels or steps but it all boils down to accepting the fact that the break up happened, the relationship is over, and that one must deal with it.  But how does one deal with it? The answer may be obvious but people to take it for granted (or try to avoid it): grieving. It’s okay to cry and feel down and miserable about a break-up.  But the next step is to identify the things that cause grief. It is important to address them and not avoid them.  Sooner or later, when these demons have been faced, one will come out a stronger person who is more than able to tackle similar problems.  
  • Laughing and crying – Laughter and tears can be cathartic and healing at the same time. Laughter triggers an increase in the release and level of the feel-good brain chemical, endorphin, in the body.  On the other hand, tears, the ones triggered by emotions and not by irritants, have been found to remove toxins in the body and relieve emotional stress.
  • Changing habits – Breaking associations with things, people, places or events that remind one of an ex-lover helps provide a fresh environment and helps one get off to a fresh start. Redecorating one’s home, modifying one’s playlist, and using different perfumes or personal care products are only some of the things that can be done to change habits linked to an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Becoming independent again – One of the consequences of being in a relationship is always doing things together with one’s partner.  Breaking off, therefore, means doing things by oneself again.  While one will likely pine over being single again, doing things on one’s own actually helps in the healing process. Being independent can be as simple as making breakfast or coffee for one, watching a movie alone or having a new bank account under one’s name.
  • Working out – Channeling one’s energy via sports such as running, swimming, dancing, etc. helps release endorphins and therefore, provides immediate relief to emotional stress.  Exercising also increases the activity of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are important hormones to uplift a person from a depressed state.   
  • Talking and writing about it – Sharing one’s experiences with others who may or may not have experienced the same emotions definitely provides release of pent-up anger or sadness.  If one is not yet ready to share his or her heart out with other people, starting a journal may also help. A journal may start out as a repository of all the negative or ill feelings one has been harboring towards the person or situation but it should be progressive.  After the negative emotions are dumped in writing, a fresh journal about positive thoughts (and even love) should be started.   
  • Helping someone – Turning one’s attention towards another person who may need help or who may also be suffering from heartbreak not only diverts attention from oneself but also provides a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that can help one slowly get over a broken heart.
  • Socializing – It is said that depression or the feeling of hurt is worst when one is alone.  Socializing does not necessarily going to a bar or club to meet a prospective date. It means hanging out partner, means hanging out with people you like, be it members of the family, close friends, a book club, a church group or whoever.  Socializing does not simply intend to draw one out of solitude. Being around people who know and care for you helps in the healing process. 

While the steps being offered by experts may seem simple enough to follow, one or all of them may not work instantly.  That is perfectly understandable.  No one has gone through an illness or disease without first going through pain or trying out different remedies for it. What is more important is that there is a conscious effort and attempt to address the problem and to begin to heal. Once the old chapter in the book of love has finally been closed, a new one will undoubtedly open.

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