Emotional Pain Physically Harms Your Heart — Here’s What You Can Do About It

how emotions affect heart health

Unsplash/Tamara Bellis

There are plenty of things embedded in American culture today that wreck our heart health. Our diets are overloaded with saturated fats, we don’t exercise nearly enough each week, we stress out to the max 24/7 and, when it comes to expressing our emotions, we hold it all in. We subdue happy moments and hide our most upsetting thoughts, and while these tendencies definitely don’t do your mental health any favors, science says that chronic emotional pain can harm your heart as well.

With that struggle in mind, Swirled connected with Dr. Bradley Nelson, a best-selling author and veteran holistic physician who has trained thousands of people around the world on how to heal emotions that damage the heart. He shared with us not only how holding onto hurt can harm your heart health, but also what you can reasonably do about it.

Holding on to negative emotions like hurt, anger and resentment can literally shorten your lifespan. According to a study from Emory University, bitter people have higher blood pressure and are more likely to die from heart disease than more forgiving people. In consideration of these findings. Dr. Nelson said that while we often think that withholding forgiveness from someone who hurt us helps us get even with them, all it really does is hurt us even more. At the end of the day, practicing forgiveness is the best way to reduce stress in your daily life, and that reduction can protect your heart for years to come.

Don’t know where to begin practicing forgiveness? Here are seven practical ways to get started, according to Dr. Nelson.

how emotions affect heart health
Unsplash/Debby Hudson

1. Write a letter.

Write a letter to the person you need to forgive. It’ll help you express any angst and negativity residing within your body relating to that person or yourself in connection with that person. (You don’t have to mail it to reap the benefits of self-expression.)

2. Burn that letter.

That’s right — take the letter outside, light it with a match, burn it up and send all of that toxic energy out into the universe. The visual alone can help you let go on a deeper level.

3. Speak forgiveness.

Verbally tell yourself or another person close to you that you truly have forgiven yourself or the person who wronged you for whatever happened. This confirmational conversation helps to seal your forgiveness.

how emotions affect heart health
Unsplash/Joshua Ness

4. Aim for understanding.

Strive to understand others despite their negative behaviors or difficult natures. None of us are perfect, and we all have reasons for acting the way we do. The more you can accept this truth and take the high road, the more at peace you will feel with the universe, with others around you and with yourself.

5. Go easy on yourself.

How many times have you chastised yourself for making a poor decision, lashing out at others, being clumsy or running late for a meeting? Us, too. But most of those mistakes won’t affect you in the long run. So instead of punishing yourself, let forgiveness take center stage and learn valuable lessons that your vulnerabilities can present to you.

6. Choose positive emotions.

You are the pilot of your own course in life, and you can choose to make intelligent and balanced decisions. When you find yourself automatically guided toward anger, wait a few seconds and ask yourself if it would better serve you to change course. The ability to choose more positive emotions is something all of us have, but it’s like a muscle — you have to exercise it regularly if you expect it to serve you well.

how emotions affect heart health
Unsplash/Eli Defaria

7. Release your emotional baggage.

Finally, you can lower your stress levels by recognizing the things in your life that are causing your negative emotional choices and nagging, negative thoughts. And once you identify them, make the conscious decision to let them go. You have the power to change your own life in a meaningful way here. It might not be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.

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