Let’s face it, like getting Chickenpox, bearing your pearly whites to the dentist and having a bad hair day, heartbreak is simply inevitably. After a number of comments on my “Love Hurts!” piece from last week, I realized a significant number of people know what it feels like to literally and physically have your heart broken. Heartbreak really gets in the way of everyday life; honestly, there’s just no time for it. So what can we do to ease the pain of waving goodbye to someone we love? Here are some of the most popular solutions out there:
1. EXERCISE: The number of psychologists, yogis, self-help book experts, doctors etc. that recommend exercise post- breakup is astounding. It is hands down the most common suggestion if you’re ready to pick up your moping, self-pitying, Ben & Jerry’s devouring body off the couch and get back out there. Here’s why:
Exercise releases endorphins (pain-reducing neurotransmitters produced in the brain. Seeing the connection?)
“Not only does exercise improve a woman’s physical and mental health, it builds self-confidence and self-esteem, aids in stress reduction and makes one stronger overall,” says Dr. Amy Banks, in The Complete Guide to Mental Health for Women. “Enhanced fitness contributes to independence and well-being…women find they become less dependent on others to help them.” Banks recommends exercising in groups with other women (either a class, or a fund raising activity like Race for the Cure) to develop camaraderie and work with others to achieve a common goal.
2. MEDITATE: Although most forms of meditation are ancient practices associated with Buddhism, you don’t need to be a religious person of any kind to benefit from this practice. “The very first job you have for your broken heart is to assert some dominion over your thoughts,” says Susan Piver, meditation expert author of The Wisdom of a Broken Heart. “Meditation cultivates tranquility, joy, vitality and love, and helps you work with difficult emotions such as terror, rage, and despair.”
What does this actually mean? It means that if you can find a way to still your mind, even for a few minutes, and focus on the present (don’t let your mind wonder to the past or the future) it will be unexpectedly calming. The actual practice is very simple, sit still, relax, and focus, but it’s harder than it looks. Trying to control your thoughts during heartbreak seems impossible, but the more you try, the easier it gets.
3. TALK: Some say you should talk it out with your friends, others say a spiritual leader, and most say seeing a therapist is essential. But even though opinions vary on whom you should speak to, talking about your heartbreak is one of the most common suggestions for recovery. “In one study, talking about their negative feeling lessened the participant’s activity in the pain-feeling part of the brain,” wrote psychologist Diana Kirschner, in Psychology Today. “…A good remedy for heartache is to spend time sharing with close friend because this activity causes the brain to release natural opiods, which are like the painkillers found in opium.”
My sister, a social work major, recently told me that one of her psychology professors tells her patients to talk about their problems until even they’re bored of hearing about it. This seemed strange to me, but it makes sense. Talk about your heartbreak, it will actually help the physical pain of your broken heart.
Stay tuned for more on my heartbreak series, including an interview with best selling author Susan Piver!