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- Jonathan Lockwood Huie (jlh @sail7.com)

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

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Coping with Heartbreak

The February 2011 issue of Scientific American has an article on the chemistry of love. A variety of chemicals and the corresponding receptors in your brain undergo dramatic changes when you are in love, and the opposite changes when you are heartbroken. For example, when you are in love, the changes in brain chemistry cause anxiety and fear levels go down, while trust increases.

In general, the chemical changes that occur when one experiences romantic love, maternal love, or unconditional love are similar, and are positive effects - with the caveat that love can make one overly trusting and open to deception.

Conversely, the chemistry of being broken-hearted is almost all negative. But it isn't hopeless. Here are several suggestions to help manage heartbreak.

Take advantage of the fact that all forms of love have related benefits. If you have lost a romantic partner, focus on building other forms of love.

1. Spend more time with young children. Offer to babysit for relatives and friends.

2. Reconnect with old friends and reminisce about good times you had together.

3. Be of service to the less fortunate. Perhaps volunteer to visit shut-ins. Focus on your unconditional love for all humans.

4. Get a cat or small dog. Look for one that likes to sit on your lap or next to you on the couch.

Exercise. There are some similarities between the chemistry of love and the chemistry of exercise. If your doctor says your health supports it, break a sweat. While walking and other light exercises are great in general, the mood-enhancing effects of exercise mostly come after your workout gets you sweating.

Medication. If your heartbreak is causing severe depression, your doctor can prescribe medication to adjust your brain chemistry.

May today be your day to dance lightly with life
to sing wild songs of adventure,
to invite rainbows and butterflies out to play,
to soar your spirit and unfurl your joy.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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