We recently saw how powerfully the sadness of a broken heart can impact a person when Debbie Reynolds died one day after her beloved daughter, Carrie Fisher. Studies have shown that the loss of a loved one raises your own risk of sudden death, known as the “bereavement effect.”
Broken heart syndrome (stress cardiomyopathy) is a real medical condition, triggered by acute, major stress or shock, such as the death of a loved one. In fact the emotional stress of losing of a loved one through divorce, death or any other circumstance can have as powerful of an impact as full-blown depression. Heartbreak can have a devastating impact on your emotional health and the loss of a vital connection can lead to the literal breakdown of the functions of the heart.
Symptoms of broken heart syndrome are very similar to those of a heart attack, including chest pain and shortness of breath. However, there’s no actual damage to the heart to trigger it. Extreme shock or stress may also trigger a hemorrhagic stroke by causing a dramatic rise or change in blood pressure.
According to a study in 2012, losing a significant person in your life raises your risk of having a heart attack the next day by 21 times, and in the following week by six times. The risk of heart attacks began to decline after about a month, as levels of stress hormones begin to decrease.
There are numerous studies linking heart and mental health. Harvard researchers reviewed more than 200 studies and concluded that people who are more optimistic and satisfied with life have a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. Pessimism was linked to a 19% higher risk of dying over a 30-year period in another study.
We can’t totally eliminate all the negative situations and happenings in life, but we do have some control over what we focus on. Focusing on intentionally creating positive experiences in your daily life has been found to lead to more satisfaction in general and greater health. Happiness researchers found we need 3 positive experiences for every one negative one in order to flourish emotionally.
So my top 5 tips to protect your emotional and physical health are:
Stay connected: don’t cut yourself off from friends and loved ones. Even consider getting a pet – love is love whether it is shared with human loved ones or animal loved ones!
Get other-centered: break out of the vicious cycle of self-absorption and intentionally show an interest in other people.
Laugh every day: find the humor in your every day events and don’t take yourself so seriously. Intentionally watch funny movies or videos and have a good laugh daily. Proverbs 17:22 says a merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones!
Nurture your spirit: we are spiritual beings. We may not all believe the same way, but we must not ignore our spirits. Read, listen to and watch uplifting things and nourish your spirit which will carry you through good times and bad. Scripture tells us: The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit? (Proverbs 18:14 NLT)
Cut yourself (and others) some slack: don’t be so hard on yourself. Learn to accept yourself, flaws and all, as well as others, just as you and they are now and see the best. Focus on what is good in yourself and others rather than all that is wrong.
Do you intentionally create positive experiences for yourself to offset the negativity in life?
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