How do you heal a broken heart? A study out of the University of Arizona says the answer is narrative journaling.
A previous study by Duke Clinical Research Institute and published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, found that the immediate emotional shock of divorce can cause cardiovascular changes like higher heart rate and lower heart rate variability which increase the likelihood of a heart attack. The new U of A study hoped to find a way to prevent (or correct) these changes to heart health caused by heartbreak.
Participants in the study were divided into three groups. One group wrote about their breakup experience; another group wrote about the breakup in the form of a narrative so that the story had a beginning, middle, and end; and the last group wrote about their daily activities with no focus on emotions or relationships.
The results of the study, published in Psychometric Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, found that narrative journaling improved heart health the most. The group exhibited lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability. Generally, a low heart rate (average beats per minute) indicates rest and a higher heart rate variability (time between heartbeats) shows that the body has a strong ability to tolerate stress.
Lead author, Kyle Bourassa, believes the group’s hearts healed faster because the narrative structure “can help people gain an understanding of their experience that allows them to move forward..." And the physiological and emotional stress caused by heartache is lessened once this understanding is achieved.
Science has proven how to heal a broken heart but still no luck with preventing it.