For 50 years, the American Heart Association and the CDC have pointed out an obvious link between Valentine's season and public health by declaring February American Heart Month. "A" for effort, I say. But really: A month, out of 12, for the heart? It deserves the best you have all year.
I propose a goal that's more specific to February. Once holidays are over and New Year's resolve has fizzled, it's a great time get back to the basics. I think of February as the "reminder" month, the time to focus on what's essential in life. I like to make a few changes in my life that fine-tune my approach to the basics of health. It's my attempt to get to the "heart" of the matter, literally and spiritually.
There's a great argument for starting right where the AHA and CDC would recommend. No studies prove that heart health is critical to emotional wellbeing, but just try to imagine how much your happiness could be enhanced if you treated this powerful muscle with all due care and respect. In February, though, the "why" interests me more than the "how."
But in case you've ignored the memos about heart health:
Meanwhile, you should be giving your heart plenty of workouts, as many as your doctor deems advisable for your condition and age. Make it a goal to:
There's very little to dispute about these guidelines. The supporting evidence is strong, and common sense takes care of the rest.
Now, let's get more subjective and talk about heart health and happiness.
Let's imagine that you've been taking good care of yourself for the last six months. A balanced diet and vigorous exercise are routine. How do you feel? Don't just say "fine, thanks": What do you imagine doing with this happy body and abundance of energy? Do you find that physical activity is becoming easier and more enjoyable? Are you happier with how your body looks? When your body feels so good that it tingles, what activities come to mind?
You see where I'm going with all this. There's an addendum to my advice about physical activity: Have more sex.
As a wellness consultant, I tell clients that in my method, there's always a place for regular sex. And that goes for all clients, happily single or married for decades. Sex makes both the body and the person happy.
Like every other activity, sex requires that you get the blood flowing. Hormones are playing a big role here too, but never forget that getting turned on in the physical sense depends on efficient blood flow: that is, good heart health. sex lowers blood pressure (who's tense afterward?), another win for the heart.
Regular sex tends to come easy for new couples, but why should they have all the fun? During this "reminder month," make a point to remember something about what turned you on to your partner. Make one effort to change things up to get his or her heart beating a little faster. If that's a physical change, so be it: losing weight, styling your hair, and getting a manicure are all great ideas.
But do it for yourself first. The first person who should be happy with your refurbished mojo should be you. Then, share the benefits if you choose.
There is a self-reinforcing system waiting to kick in. When you're both feeling good about yourselves, and physicality is an established element of your togetherness, intimacy tends to follow.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that to please your partner you need to look like a model. The key to intimacy is not how good you look; it's how you feel about your looks. But there's nothing wrong with admitting that physical intimacy played a big role in getting you together. And certainly it can help to keep you together.
By all means, pay attention when the CDC says your heart is the key to your health today and tomorrow. But don't forget that heart health is the foundation of your emotional wellness, because what you feel in the body and in the mind (and the heart) all flows together.
The heart is a complex organ, but use February to cover the basics. Keep building a sustainable diet, and remember that all physical movement is good movement. Go ahead and sex it up by Valentine's Day by giving yourself and a partner a special treat. When the body does it's thing, as a solo or double act, the emotional and spiritual benefits follow.
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