Caring for your heart through nutrition and exercise is vital for your long-term health. Equally important is caring for your heart in your relationships, making sure it’s open so you can communicate authentically with all those relying on you for your honesty, security, friendship, support and affection.
To have such a heart, we need to examine what an open heart is, what causes you to close your heart, and, if closed, what can be done to open it again so you live your life fully.
Heart Wide Open
When your heart is open you feel any number of sensations—expansive, generous, trusting, loving, accepting, open-minded, creative, spiritually connected, and curious.
With an open heart you take life as it comes and you embrace each moment as an opportunity to express who you are, your values and your purpose.
Heart Closed Down
Unfortunately, life experiences have a tendency to cause us to close our hearts. Traumatic events, abuse, violence, disappointment, betrayal, and loss can make us want to protect ourselves from future hurt. And in so doing, we avoid (to the best of our ability) all potential for additional pain.
And just like that, we become emotionally unavailable to our partners, kids, parents, and friends. We lose our capacity for compassion and harden our interactions with family, friends, co-workers and employees. We live our lives lost in our egos, lead with arrogance, or cease to see the humanity in others. We stop finding joy and, in its place, we only experience sadness, depression, suspicion, cynicism, threat or numbness.
Doesn’t an open heart sound and feel so much better? Wouldn’t you prefer to live your life with your heart wide open?
Your Wounded Heart
For most of us, addressing what has come to feel like a permanent part of our character can seem like a daunting task, even overwhelming. How does one go about changing one’s worldview? How do you suddenly wake up and start trusting when your entire life experience has proven to you that no one can be trusted? How can someone begin to see joy when all he or she has managed to witness to-date is pain and disappointment?
Wow, even writing this paragraph has caused me to feel the old feelings that once plagued me when my heart was closed. It’s really a terrible place to be. And you needn’t stay there.
The Healing Process
Obvious first places to start include reading, counseling, and energetic healers. In addition, I have a few suggestions designed to immediately put you into action and open your heart to those close to you.
A closed heart tends to close our ears. Our wounded self is so judgmental, it makes hearing about others so difficult because all we can do is think about ourselves and our self-limiting internal conversations. Practicing listening and bringing a commitment to real change will allow you to begin opening your heart to the needs and feelings of others. Start with your kids.
Wipe the Slate Clean
Imagine forgetting everything you know about your spouse, your brother or a good friend. Then consider what you would need to do to get to know them if you had just met. To rebuild relationships that have been damaged or neglected over time, try treating these loved ones as new acquaintances. Ask them questions to get to know them, about everything, as if you were on a first date.
They’ll feel special as a result of your curiosity, and you’ll probably hear things you never knew. Taking a new perspective can trick your heart into opening long enough to have a brand new experience.
Shake Things Up at Work
At work, just as in your personal life, you continue to recreate the experiences of your past. If you want to open your heart, connect more with those around you, it’ll be up to you to try something new.
If you’re the boss, delegate more. Take more risks and show your staff you trust them. Ask for suggestions and implement them. It may be uncomfortable, but the results can be extraordinary for you, for them, and maybe even for your bottom line.
If you’re on staff, make greater efforts to care for your colleagues. Be willing to go out with them for a drink (even if it’s a Pellegrino) to build or strengthen your relationships. Be interested in them and give them a chance to really see who you are. You know, you’re really much more interesting and fun to be with than you’ve given yourself credit for.
When your heart is closed your world becomes way too much about you. Change that by making your hour, your day or your weekend about others. There are many ways to give of yourself that will be just the medicine you need to soften that outer shell of your heart.
Whether it’s at a food bank, shelter for the abused, Habitat for Humanity, a fun run for a life-threatening disease, reading to the blind or children, or visiting the infirmed at a hospital or senior facility, your giving will give you just what you need.
Stop Being So Tight with Your Money
Really, are you planning on taking it with you? How much do you really need?
Your closed heart is connected to your poor relationship with money. Learn the universal truth that the more you give, the more you get. Pick up the tab at lunch. Amaze your friends! Offer a scholarship to help someone better his or her life. Give to local charities that are doing amazing work despite having to compete with the big boys for your charitable dollars.
Reach into your pocket and open that big old heart of yours. Be generous with your money, and in all areas of your life.
Follow A Spiritual Path
Part of your problem is that you tend to be the center of your own universe. You’re not! The universe is vast and there’s a very specific place in it just for you. Whatever you may believe, if you have the courage to explore and ask questions, you may find yourself connecting with others who have similar beliefs. Those connections can be the key to opening your closed heart.