World Heart Day is all about raising awareness of heart health on a physical level – ensuring good levels of exercise, fitness, diet and blood pressure. Yet the heart is also the hub of our emotions, so let’s not forget about our emotional health too.
What you hold in your heart can determine how your day goes, and how your life unfolds.
Are you warm hearted or cold hearted? Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a choice, as early life may have laid down some patterns that you feel you can’t get out of.
Hold on to resentment, and they say it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. So many of us cling to resentment as though we could lose a piece of ourselves if we ever let go of it. Resentment closes our heart to further hurt. Of course it does, to protect us. However, it also closes our heart to further joy.
Hold on to positive thoughts, and your heart will be expansive and open to new experiences. Yet the ability to do this may depend on how much you felt held and acknowledged and seen as a child. Opening your heart may have been unsafe when you were little. Openly expressing your emotions may have not have been tolerated because your parents found it ‘too much’.
Your heart may have closed as a way of saving you from further disappointment and hurt and abandonment. You may have developed a ‘mask’ that was more acceptable to your caregivers. The risk of speaking your truth may have come with punitive consequences.
As an adult with a complex background, how can you open your heart to new experiences? How can you open your heart to new people? How do you open your heart to the risk of loving and being loved? That can feel risky.
Here are some steps to help you open your heart…
- Clear your clutter. The first rule in emotional health is to clear stuff from your environment that doesn’t serve you any more. What goes on outside of you can reflect what’s going on inside. Get rid of what you don’t need. Cherish what you do. Know the difference between the two. Clearing out your stuff means you create space for new experiences and opportunities to enter.
- Stop expecting people to anticipate your every need. This is often a key reason why people come into therapy: they expect people around them to pick up on cues and take care of them. Taking responsibility for our own needs is personally empowering.
- Make the first step. This links to step 2. Once you revise your expectations, you may feel freer to be free. In your car, let the other car pass. In your work life, be more patient with colleagues. In your personal life, invite friends out rather than waiting for others to approach you. Stop needing people to like you. Shift your focus from needing to giving. Then stand back and observe the opportunities that life offers you as a result.
- Count your blessings. Think about all the awesome stuff you have in your life, rather than counting out your woes. A way to do this is by keeping a gratitude journal. Take five minutes at the end of every day to list the five things you feel grateful for. The benefit of doing this, over time, will help you to anticipate blessings over the days.
- Let go of past hurts. This can be a tricky one. A way of working this through is to write a letter to the person who’s hurt you, saying everything you need to get off your chest. Just DON’T SEND THE LETTER! Getting your feelings out, without hurting anyone else, can be a way to open your heart.
- Be the change you want to see in the world. As psychotherapists, we see many people coming into therapy because of interpersonal relationship issues. Often our clients want the people in their lives to change and wake up to fulfilling their needs. The secret to this is changing the part of you that is resentful and expectant. Flick a switch in you, and a switch will flick in your world.
- Speak to someone neutral. A therapist is the person who won’t judge, won’t tut, won’t feel overwhelmed. A therapist is there for you week on week. With an open heart. Sitting with a therapist can help you disentangle from difficult feelings and help you feel more open to what life has to throw at you.
For a therapist who can meet you on a heart level, call for an appointment on 020 8673 4545 or email [email protected]