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Why I Prescribe Acupuncture For A Broken Heart

November 6, 2017

We all remember our first heartbreak. That sense of being so crushed we couldn’t breathe. One would think that heartbreak gets easier as we get older and wiser, but I've seen that it continues to be one of life’s stormiest passages. The pain of heartbreak feels very specific because it is specific. In fact, chemically it is very different from other types of loss.

As a Chinese medicine practitioner, as well as a trained psychotherapist, I've seen firsthand how helpful this ancient healing modality can be through modern romantic heartbreak.

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Getting through a painful time using TCM.

While the adage "Time heals all wounds" has a lot of truth to it, it’s not usually helpful in the moment. The time period that must pass before healing occurs can seem like torture, and it feels like we cannot survive without the person we’ve lost. Helen Fisher, Ph.D., a biological anthropologist, has done numerous studies on the science of love and romance. In her TED Talk, Fisher describes that obsession can become even greater after you’ve been dumped, since the brain becomes more active when you need to work out why you can’t get what you want. So although it doesn't sound very romantic, a lot of your feelings are chemical.

While Western medicine tends to repress symptoms like pain, acupuncture and herbal medicine use them to accelerate the healing process. When we are dealing with heartbreak, our mind loops over and over again on the same obsessive thought in what's known as a maladaptive feedback loop. With acupuncture, the person has an opportunity to start to mend a destructive thought process.

Clinical studies show that the needles can help release feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin—the same ones released when we fall in love. When we are madly in love, when our system is flooded with those hormones, we then associate those strong emotions with the other person, which can teach our bodies that we need that person to feel good. Once these same hormones are released with acupuncture, we are subconsciously reminded that it is possible to feel good again without our loved one. I've seen acupuncture help the blinders of that association open up a bit, sometimes even a lot. When we feel the possibility of something other than heartbreak in our body, mind, and spirit, we can begin to move on, slowly but surely.

Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.

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When I'm working with patients, I choose acupuncture points that will help release stuck energy in the heart. I also send them home with herbs that hold a similar function and get stuck energy moving. I generally prescribe biweekly acupuncture for two weeks and weekly acupuncture for another four weeks along with herbal remedies throughout the painful time.

How to combine acupuncture and herbs with other effective healing methods.

Other things that are helpful after any loss include talk therapy, support groups, self-care, a balanced diet, and great books (Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart is a personal favorite of mine). It's also helpful to remember the positive side of any heartbreak. For me, the broken hearts in my history have opened me up to look at the many pieces and surfaces of my heart. I have been able to put my broken heart back together so that it feels bigger and fuller than ever before. Stronger and more integrated. When there is a break in one spot, it allows the light to penetrate through all the broken places.

If you too are dealing with heartbreak, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

1. Yes, this hurts, but not forever. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, "Embrace the glorious mess you are." Give yourself a finite amount of time to wallow, such as, "I can eat ice cream every day for one week, and then I’m done!"

2. Everyone is different and heals in their own way and in their own time. Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.

3. Keep hope alive for a new love when the time is right, but don’t glom on to someone right away just to distract yourself.

4. Know that you may have many relationships that will teach you a lot before you meet your life partner. All relationships serve a purpose for your growth and healing. Honor the lessons that you will learn from your relationships and even your pain.

5. Use your energy to develop new habits. Make positive changes in your life, and let go of the habits that don’t serve you. If you focus on this, you will be distracted from the obsession of the loss and learn that you can make yourself feel better.

6. Get their crap out of your house. Continuing to exist among the energy of their stuff will prolong your suffering. And stop following them on social media immediately!

7. Take a vacation or take a mini holiday to get a change of scenery if you can.

8. Listen to yourself. Even through the pain, this is an opportunity to know yourself better.

9. Through this evolution of self, you will recognize that you deserve the best, and you will vibrate and attract that. Like Maya Angelou said, "Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option."

10. Become your own best friend. You were born with yourself and will die with yourself, so make your relationship with you sacred. The more you love you, the more you will be able to receive the love coming your way.

Acupuncture can also help ease physical pain, inflammation, and stress. Here's how.

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Jill Harrison, L.Ac., DAOM
Jill Harrison, L.Ac., DAOM
Licensed Acupuncturist & Herbalist

Dr. Jill Harrison is an acupuncturist and herbalist practicing in Los Angeles, California. She is the founder and president of Joyful Life Healing, a Chinese medical practice that consciously invites and guides the individual through a journey toward wholeness in body, mind, and spirit.

Harrison holds a Master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine from Yo San University and a doctorate in acupuncture and Oriental medicine from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. Dr. Harrison first became interested in Chinese medicine while working at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as a psychotherapist in their Division of Adolescent Medicine.

Harrison has practice meditation for 30 years, and coaches her patients and clients in the practice. She was the director of religious exploration for a Unitarian fellowship for six years, where she mentored youth toward understanding themselves and the importance of understanding world religions and encouraging a conscious spiritual path.