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February is designated annually as National Heart Month. It provides us with the perfect mid-winter lift, encouraging us to celebrate everything that can contribute to heart health and happiness. While Valentine’s Day has historically shouldered the responsibility for this celebration, research is now bolstering us to pay close attention to our heart health needs over a whole month instead of one uber-marketed day.

To have a healthy heart, we must take consistent care of ourselves inside and out

We now know that there is a real link between feeling happy and having a healthy heart. When we feel better, we do better and vice versa. Here are a few simple but effective tips for simultaneously increasing both heart health and happiness:

Flowers = Happy

The sight of flowers has long been thought to raise our mood and brighten our day. They have the innate power to touch our hearts. We feel celebrated, honored, congratulated or encouraged to get well. Harvard psychologist Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D lead a behavioral research study which revealed that having living flowers in the home environment contributes to feelings of happiness. She writes, “As a psychologist, I’m particularly intrigued to find that people who live with flowers report fewer episodes of anxiety and depressed feelings. Our results suggest that flowers have a positive impact on our well-being.”

More Sleep=Happy

We know that when we are well rested, life seems to go more smoothly. In his research, Dr. William D.S. Killgore of Harvard Medical School found that insufficient sleep led to a general slowing of alertness and attention, and also contributed to the inability to recognize humor. He found that when we don’t get sufficient sleep, we have a significantly reduced ability to process information, both emotionally and cognitively. He asserts that our sense of humor is dependent upon the optimal functioning of these processes. Adding one hour of sleep will contribute to greater alertness, optimism, and the indispensable ability to recognize and share in the lighter side of life.

Good Posture=Happy

The incidence of depression in our society is at an all-time high. Researchers continue to uncover the link between mind and body. In an article in the journal Biofeedback, researchers Peper and Wilson found that adopting an upright body posture can improve both mood and energy levels. In an interview about this study in SF State University Communications, Peper said, “We tend to think the brain and body relationship goes one way. In fact, the passages go both ways. When you choose to put your body in a different mode, it’s harder to drop into depression.”

Exercise=Happy

Dr. John Ratey is the author of the exercise science book, Spark. He writes that aerobic exercise increases our fight or flight threshold. It does this by relaxing muscles while elevating mood-moderating neurotransmitters (serotonin and dopamine) and reducing the stress hormone cortisol. The heart is so much more than simply an organ that pumps blood each and every second of our lives to supply the oxygen and nutrients to our cells. The heart is at the core of the body and also at the core of how we think and feel: we take a compliment or a criticism “to heart;” we “give our heart” to our beloved; our “hearts go out” to another in need.

Our research studies are now reflecting what we have long suspected: to have a healthy heart, we must take comprehensive and consistent care of ourselves inside and out. The heart is an organ and it is also the sacred repository where we hold what is most dear to us. Because of this, our heart health and our happiness will be forever intertwined and dependent upon one another.

During National Heart Month, how will you focus on the needs of your heart, both physically and emotionally?  

Contributed by

Mimi O' Connor
Group Support Specialist

Hearts linked, together we heal…

Better Health Begins With You...

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