Take Heart: You're the Cupid You've Been Waiting For
I'm taking Valentine's Day to heart this year for one good reason: So many hearts are feeling the stress of all that's going on. Anxiety is the cheesy chicken-fried steak of the healthy heart, the open heart, the heart that is so at ease, you barely flinch when someone cuts in line or steals your parking place.
Whether it comes from politics, the stock market, the office or the ongoing dramas and traumas in your own house, stress strains the heart and gets in the way of your personal well-being. Big-time.
Cue your most personal trainer, here to remind you how much control you have over how your heart feels, performs and reacts to the everyday anxieties of life.
Everyone's heard about HDL and LDL when it comes to healthy hearts. But here's something your doctor neglects to mention, because it's not part of his Western medical training: A healthy heart is also a loving heart, a generous heart, a forgiving heart.
Those aren't just vague psychological concepts. Love, generosity and forgiveness are three well-researched heart-healthy practices you can do every day. And here -- for your Valentine's Day reading pleasure -- are a few more to consider:
MOVE AROUND MORE. You know this, but knowing it isn't really enough; physical activity -- even minutes a day, most every day -- is a must if you want to nurture a healthier heart. So please, get moving more, and bonus points if you do so outdoors, in nature.
Cardiovascular fitness -- a measurably strong heart and healthy lungs -- is your No. 1 defense against heart disease. If you can't commit to 150 minutes of exercise a week, accept that, and start where you are. Just going from a sedentary lifestyle to a slightly more active one has profound health benefits.
LOOK INSIDE. Meditation and mindfulness are two exquisite ways to cultivate a healthy, loving heart. Even a few minutes a day makes a difference, so what are you waiting for? No really. If you've tried to start a meditation practice before, begin again. No judgment, no excuses, just a few minutes of sitting comfortably, focusing on your breath, letting your thoughts float by, bringing your awareness back to your heart center. If you try it a few times and can't find your heart center, email me for further instructions.
LET GO OF ANGER. Whom or what are you mad at? If you hold on to anger, in your mind and body, it takes a toll on your heart. Feelings of anger, guilt, jealousy and envy are what brain scientists and happiness psychologists call negative emotions, and over time, they can depress your immune system, drain your energy and weaken your heart. So find a way to let go of your anger. This doesn't mean giving approval to whatever he or she did. It's a show of strength and compassion that says, "I'm not your victim." You can't give yourself a sweeter valentine than that.
EAT SMARTER. Extra pounds weigh heavily on your heart. Bouncing from diet to diet is such an unconscious way to live. Diets are all about denial and deprivation, and your body hates that, so as soon as you go off your diet, you regain any weight you lost -- and probably gain a few additional pounds, too.