emotional intelligence sadness heartbreakRecovering from sadness is a psychological journey we all have to take many times over. Sometimes the emotional burden is relatively light, such as when we break a favorite dish or scrape a knee. At other times, it is tremendously heavy, weighing us down like bag full of lead as we attempt to carry on functioning in our day-to-day lives.

When my marriage, which I had thought indestructible, broke down I felt just like heroine in the fairytale “The Princess with the Glass Heart”.  I felt terribly fragile, like the finest piece of Venetian glass just waiting to shatter at the slightest pressure. I needed to spend time repairing the deep crack in my heart in order that I could live healthily and vibrantly again.

We all need to find our own individual path to healing but I found several activities that were tremendously helpful during that difficult year. I thought I would share them with you for your reference when sad times press upon you and you need to some tending to your broken heart.

Heartbreak Tip #1: Meditation. This provided me with quiet time to face the pain and grief for the loss of my relationship without inflicting everyone within my circle of friends and working associates with the blood from my wounds.

Heartbreak Tip #2: Exercise. I discovered that exercise releases endorphins (enzymes produced by the brain that are the natural equivalent of morphine) to provide me with a natural tranquilizer and analgesic. These endorphins are released automatically in the presence of pain – and by relaxation exercises, vigorous exercise and (according to research) hot chili peppers. The last I did not test, but the addition of regular exercise to my routine was a real boost. I joined the YMCA and took up jogging as well.

Heartbreak Tip #3: Journal writing. It can be very therapeutic to put down your feelings in black and white. It also helps to write down what you want to do about your situation and anticipate some plans with goals and objectives. Several friends (with a psychological orientation) suggested I keep a journal. While I do not consider writing a talent of mine, I followed their advice. Writing poetry was also recommended, but this turned out to bring a new kind of agony to me, so I abandoned this avenue of help. But for my son, writing poetry was very healing and he wrote volumes. It still makes me cry when I read it.

Heartbreak Tip #4: Humor. During this period I read that children laugh 400 to 500 times a day while adults only laugh 15 times a day. (And probably many of you reading this are thinking it’s much lower than that!) If you can inject more fun times into your life, you can lift your mood thereby providing you with respite from the arduous heart work ahead of you. I took up with Gary Larsen (“The Far Side”) and Cathy Guisewite (“Cathy”.) It was also during this time that I established laughter as one of the annual themes for the school where I was Executive Director. During the academic year I asked everyone to stop me in the hallway and tell me a joke, if they did so I would pay them with a hug. That was a great year; maybe I should do it again.

Heartbreak Tip #5: Acts of service. Participating in compassionate service dramatically improves our feelings of self-worth and self-esteem and if performed anonymously, those good feelings are doubled. My feelings of self-worth were somewhere in the basement and this tip was the most rewarding of all. I discovered my misery was mild compared to that of others. I began to count my blessings: a fun-loving, energetic son who helped me beat those doldrums; a job I was really crazy about; friends who would sustain and nurture me when I needed somebody to listen; and students who are imbued so much with the joy of living that it had to rub off on me. It still does.

Heartbreak Tip #6: Play. So many adults have forgotten how to play. Rekindle those memories and practice relearning this skill. Play with your friends, your children, your grandchildren. Observe how they play and model them. Rediscover activities you loved as a kid and give yourself opportunities to enjoy the pleasure of things done just for fun.

Aristotle said that our habits make the difference. So I decided to order my soul the same way I mastered the multiplication tables and cooking – through practice and more practice. I am still actively engaged in all of the above activities. They have enriched my life immeasurably. I can literally feel my soul expanding when I do them.

What have you found works for you when dealing with sadness? Or should we just wallow in it? Tell me in the comments! I promise to get back to you. 🙂

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The 7th International NexusEQ Conference is taking place at HARVARD UNIVERSITY in Boston, June 24-26, 2013. Please reserve the date, you can read more details about it here. :-)

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