By: Thérèse Buckingham, NBC-HWC
February is American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day is just four days away. So, I can’t think of a better time than now to talk about affairs of the heart. How about you?
It’s likely you’ve given and received a valentine in some form or another at some point in your life... but have you ever thought about how you might give yourself a valentine?
If you read my last article, The Gift You Didn't Get This Holiday Season, you might think I am stuck in a rut with the idea of giving to oneself. But, I write about this topic because I passionately believe that giving oneself attention and love is critical to personal health and wellbeing.
You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. - Buddha
my own journey with self-love
I’ll start with a little background on my own journey with self-love. A year ago my husband and I were listening to a podcast on our way to a Valentine's weekend getaway. The topic was on self-love. I turned to my husband and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say that I love myself.”
It seemed like nonsense—a hippy-dippy, foo-foo, self-absorbed, vain idea to me. When I started to think about it, I realized that it would take a lot of work to silence the negative self-talk that came from a very critical and disapproving voice in my head. So, I did what any rational person would do and I brushed it aside and didn’t think about it again until this past fall.
On a perfectly beautiful October day while enjoying a bike ride by myself, I was broadsided with this thought, “If I don’t love myself then why do I spend time taking care of myself?”
It was in that moment that I realized that eating a clean, real food diet, exercising, meditating, stretching, getting out in nature… were, in fact, acts of love.
Why on earth would I take such care about my health and wellness if I didn’t love myself? I now believe that self-care is self-love. And, self-love is crucial to thriving and living with vitality.
Everything you do to take care of yourself is like a little love note to yourself. Because self-care is self-love.
Two Ways to Approach Self-Love
I’d like to propose that there are two approaches you can take to practice self-care and self-love. As a result, you may just have a happier, healthier heart. The first approach will help your heart thrive emotionally, and the second will help you build a stronger, physically healthy heart.
#1 Nurture unconditional love and self acceptance
Whether or not you believe you deserve your own self-love, you can start to nurture it with any of the following practices.
Research is confirming that gratitude is good medicine and that a gratitude practice in any form can boost emotional and physical well-being. It can be as simple as making a mental or written note of what you’re grateful for at the beginning or end of the day.
Treat your heart like your life depends on it, because it does!
Now let’s turn our focus to the physical heart—the one pumping inside your chest and keeping you vibrant and alive.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and is also a preexisting condition that increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. (Read more about heart disease from the CDC)
President Lyndon B. Johnson first proclaimed February as American Heart Month 57 years ago in 1964. The sad news is that deaths from cardiovascular disease have increased 17.1% worldwide in the past decade.
“In most cases, heart disease is preventable when people adopt a healthy lifestyle, which includes not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol, treating high blood pressure, getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week and getting regular checkups.” (heart.org)
We all know that healthy habits help us build strong, resilient bodies. Your lifestyle can negatively or positively impact your heart. There’s a push towards lifestyle medicine that centers on a whole-food, plant-based diet; physical activity; adequate rest and recovery; stress management and social connections to not only promote health but also to treat and reverse disease.
This brings us to the second approach to practicing self-care and self-love.
#2 Send yourself a valentine by adopting a heart smart lifestyle
Above all else guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.
February is Heart Health Month
It’s probably no coincidence that February was designated as Heart Health Month with Valentine’s Day right in the middle. My hope is that after reading this you are inspired to protect your heart with some of the tips offered and live a heart healthy life. Because, taking care of your heart both emotionally and physically is important, and learning how to do that is how you take control of your heart health.
I’m taking February to heart on social media with posts that focus on how we can mindfully care for our heart. Follow along with me on Instagram or Facebook @VitalityinFocus for heart healthy tips, recipes, motivation and inspiration.
How will you handle your heart with the love and care it deserves?
A board certified health coach can help you create your own, personalized heart healthy plan. You can connect with Thérèse or any of our other amazing National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coaches through our directory.