The heart has much to teach us about the high cost of emotional shutdown. The connection between our emotional well-being and our hearts is more than metaphorical. Your emotions truly are the heartstrings that join mind, spirit and body.
Consider this during “heart month,” how the Valentine heart represents the “core” of our emotions: LOVE.
Just picture the heart as it beats, lub-dub, lul-dub, so valiantly and reliably moment-to-moment, day-to-day, year-to-year. The valves open to let the blood in, then close to seal the chamber before opening again to move the gift of oxygen along on its life-sustaining journey.
The arteries dilate to receive blood, then squeeze a bit to push it along to nourish the body. By virtue of their smooth muscle cells and walls, arteries can open and close to shunt blood to areas of special need.
When there is significant loss of blood flow through the coronary arteries, as there is with atherosclerosis or heart disease, the heart suffers from lack of oxygen. When everything is “open,” the heart is pretty healthy. But, when these arteries close physically, a heart attack will happen and tissue will die from lack of oxygen supply.
Emotional Well-Being Depends on Being Open
In a similar “vein,” closing your heart to love can have an equally disastrous effect. Like atherosclerosis, emotional withdrawal can literally suffocate the heart. This is why it is so important to allow yourself to “feel” the wide range of human emotions we all experience, even though some of them, like anger, sadness and grief, may be anything but comfortable.
Getting in touch with your feelings of sadness and sorrow in the face of loss isn’t an easy thing to do. For some of us might require time to heal, for others it may mean talking with a spiritual advisor or a psychotherapist to acknowledge our grief and begin to work through it so we can open our hearts again.
Healing your heart may mean reaching out and connecting with an old friend or family member, forgiving yourself or someone else or learning to share yourself with new friends. If you have sense that you are in a state of emotional shutdown—not really feeling connected to another in life, lacking joy in simple things like being with family and friends—then try to make that first step to reach out again and risk re-connecting, for your own emotional well-being.
Love is the most vital force in human behavior. We must not ignore the role it plays in our physical and emotional well-being. The presence or absence of love in our lives can make all the difference between heart health and disease.
So this Valentine’s Day season, even if you don’t have a romantic Valentine, try letting a little more love into your life by connecting with others in ways you might not have considered. It can start with a card, a phone call, a cup of coffee or a walk in the park.
We wish you and your heart love and laughter during this loving season … and all the weeks to come.