For some, the holidays means heartache.
For most people it means a joyous time, overflowing with family gatherings, beautiful decorations, wonderful gifts, food and drink, and revered memories of our own childhood. It’s a special time for love, intimacy, and matters of the heart.
Sad as it may be, “tis the season to be jolly” is not a welcome refrain for a high percentage of the population. For those of us who have experienced the loss of a loved one, divorce, rejection, abandonment, or betrayal, the holiday season can further intensify feelings of loss and lack of “connectedness.” The emphasis on close relationships and heartfelt expression at this time of year makes it a stressful time for any who cannot relate to the deep bonding feelings of togetherness and belonging that the holidays typically evoke. In fact, the statistics suggest that the highest number of suicides occur around holiday time and physician’s offices are beset with requests for tranquilizers and mood enhancers.
Research has shown that “heartbreak” is a potent risk factor not only for depression and suicide, but in the development of heart disease. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as smoking, high cholesterol, obesity, hypertension, family history, and a sedentary lifestyle are widely known. But many may not connect emotional behavioral factors, such as the suppression of fear, anger, hostility, bitterness, and rage, with heart disease.
The Childhood Connection
Interestingly, many aspects of these hidden risk factors have their foundation in childhood. A nurturing environment and unconditional love many prepare a child to lead an adult life with less fear, insecurity, and anxiety, while fostering more trust, pleasure, and “connectedness.” All of these factors contribute to a healthier heart.
As adults, the loss of love and its special intimacy causes heartbreak which can lead to heart disease. The loneliness and isolation that follows a break-up or the death of a loved one can truly produce a “broken heart.” Being connected to others in a warm, loving relationship is of paramount importance to most of us. Sharing happiness, vulnerability, personal growth, trials, and tribulations with another human being creates a sense of bonding that is irreplaceable. Studies have shown that single and widowed people have heart attacks more frequently than married people. In addition, statistics show that widows develop heart disease more rapidly after losing their partner.
The 4 Point Heart-Loving Strategy
1. Create a background of heart-healthy sounds. Music has a profound influence on emotions and the heart in particular. During the holiday season, Christmas carols are uplifting and nourishing to the soul. Composer musician, Steven Halpern, has said that music has far-reaching effects on our bodies. Some rhythms and sounds can induce physical discomfort, an inability to concentrate, hearing loss, disturbed sleep, poor digestion, and headaches. Others produce feelings of serenity and peace that relax and energize the body. Numerous experts have discovered that classical music (like Baroque) has the potential of normalizing the heart beat to a healthy resting pulse of 60 beats per minute, in sync with the music. For this reason, Baroque music has been utilized to enhance learning and reduce test anxiety.
2. Monitor your negative thought patterns. The use of positive thoughts and words can be an incredibly powerful tool for strengthening the body. Maxwell Maltz, M.D., coined the phrase “psychocybernetics” over 40 years ago to emphasize the likeness of the function of mind/brain to a computer. Enter healing data into your own internal and external environment that will reinforce your desire for a strong heart and displace the anger, bitterness, and rage that can trigger heart disease. There is a direct cause and effect relationship between the thoughts that we fertilize in our minds and the resulting outcome in our bodies.
3. Maintain a personal journal. Many people have discovered the heart-healing benefits of journaling or writing down their daily thoughts and feelings. Both sexes can experience the feeling of personal strength as they express their innermost thoughts and emotions. It’s also a vehicle for discharging stressors and dispelling bottled up anger—a way of expressing feelings that might otherwise remain suppressed. Clearing emotional blockages leads to a heart-healthy life.
4. Learn to be a conscious breather. Like music, breathing also dramatically influences the health of our hearts. According to Gary Hendericks, Ph.D., “the chest breathers, the pattern that characterizes many heart patients is chronically in a state of mild hyperventilation, discharging too much carbon dioxide from the blood through short shallow breath. This imbalance in the blood causes the heart to work harder, much as a car engine strains and stresses when the carburetor is poorly adjusted. For this reason, healthy breathing should be the first thing taught to heart patients.
Try to think of your breath as your constant friend and companion, available to nourish your body at a moment’s notice. Here are some simple suggestions for abdominal breathing:
• Lie on the floor and bend your knees.
• Close your eyes.
• Place your hands over your naval.
• Breathe in through your nose.
• Breathe out naturally and feel your abdomen fall beneath your hands.
• Inhale a full deep breath and then exhale it completely.
The Premier Heart-Protecting Compound
CoQ10 can be helpful in mending a broken heart–whether it’s a physical or emotional underlying cause. It’s been found to aid in a variety of issues, including heart disease and heart failure—likely due to its antioxidant-like properties and ability to improve energy production in cells and prevent oxidation of blood fats. According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, “CoQ10 deficiency might be implicated in the long-term progression prognosis of [Chronic Heart Failure]…” I recommend taking 100-300 mg of Co-Enzyme Q10 for mild heart problems and 300-600 mg for severe.
Bringing the Joy Back to Your Life
If you’re suffering from heartbreak or heart disease, there are tools and information available to help you find wellness of the body, mind, and spirit. The key is to consider and treat all of the underlying physical and emotional factors that contribute to an unhealthy heart. Fortified with knowledge, we can all take control of our lives and heal our hearts from an intertwine of physical and emotional pain.
I hope that whatever is in your heart this year will be truly healed or fulfilled during the holiday season.
Sinatra, S. Heartbreak and Heart Disease. New Canaan, CT.:Heats, 1996
Halpern, S. Sound Health: The Music and Sounds That Make Us Whole. New York, NY: Harper Collins
Hendericks, G. Conscious Breathing. New York, NY: Bantam, 1996
just lost my dad this week and this really spoke to me. thanks
Ann Louise, I so appreciate all your posts. This one regarding the holidays was helpful and compassionate, especially for those of us who have suffered much loss.
Merry Christmas to you!
Dear Ann, I am so sorry for your loss. As someone who lost her mother around Christmas, I have learned that the opposite spirit of grief is honor. When I do something that honors my mother, like telling the story to others of how we redeemed an impossible mother-daughter relationship, and the joyful and inspirational stories that ensued, my heart fills and spills to overflowing. I wanted to encourage you to do something that honors him–like write a post that tells us about your dad and what made him special. I also went dancing a week after Mom passes–just to change the energy. It was wonderful to give myself permission to enjoy my favorite band in the midst of having to endure her loss without any family support. Peace and joy to you even in the midst of your loss.