Imagine you’ve got a box. In that box, there is a token representing each of your lived experiences, both positive and negative. There are letters, polaroid photos, jewelry, theme park tickets, a hoodie—tangible things that represent a memory, a person or feeling.
Now that box is full. You cannot fit anything else into it; it seems you have all these dreams, aspirations and wishes that you feel once you reach them, then you will finally feel happy. But right now, you experience moments of stress, frustration and heartbreak, and you feel unfulfilled at times, like you are not quite where you want to be yet, but why is that? Why can’t you seem to fit more positive tokens in your box? It seems like there is a limit to the opportunities coming your way, your relationships, career paths and maybe even your health and wellness.
That may be because your heart isn’t fully open. You’ve set unconscious limits to your box. Who said it has to be rigid? Inflexible? Who said it had to be made of cardboard and have a deepness that you can feel and touch? We are always looking for what is next and wishing for more—more time and love, more money and adventures but how are we really allowing these things to come into our lives?
Everything in the human body is connected—your physical body, your brain, your heart, your feelings—so your nervous system will respond with a fight, flight or freeze response when something happens, and that response will depend on how you have chosen to view your past experiences. When we get hurt, we have the tendency to close our hearts a little because we don’t want to get hurt again; we want to feel safe. But who said a heartbreak had to be bad? We live in a society where we have created associations and connotations for experiences and labels. These limit our potential.
A study at Harvard Medical School identified that “loneliness has the same risk for heart disease.” This is pretty intense, especially in the times that we are living in, where self-isolation is enforced by law in some countries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Researchers observed that loneliness and self-isolation are linked to weaker immune systems and that “maintaining existing relationships and forging new friendships could be an effective form of disease prevention.” Therefore, it is especially important to have these conversations now. We humans are social creatures. As young college students, who will hopefully enter the social world again very soon, opening our hearts to embrace new experiences and connections and choosing to love, be vulnerable and not let fear limit us is key.
So unlike a box, we cannot physically stretch out our heart. How do we open it?
You will live with an open heart when you:
- are willing to be vulnerable and grateful.
- focus on what you have and love in your life.
- are honest with yourself and others.
- respond with maturity.
- look at the bigger picture and the different points of view.
- accept that rejection, embarrassment, mistakes, heartbreaks and loss are part of the experiences that will come your way.
Will you still fear? Yes. Will you still get hurt? Yes. However, you will fall forward and not backward. You’ll turn these negative experiences into valuable lessons to learn from, and that will make you feel lighter, more positive and ready for the wonderful things.
Now you may think “That’s easier said than done,” which is true, but remember it’s not about wanting and wishing to reach that state of being. When you define what happiness is for yourself, instead of that definition coming from a future thing to reach, and decide to be happy and grateful for who you are and with who and what are in your life now, future experiences and feelings of joy will be felt on a deeper level.
So if it sometimes feels like you are watching your life like it is a movie with a neutral stagnant plot (yes, you are the main character), then, as Confucius said, “wherever you go, go with all your heart.”