February is National Heart Month, giving us 28 days to focus on our hearts. There is one day in particular that is set aside each February, where hearts beat loudly for others. Yes, Valentine’s Day is that one day a year where heartfelt gestures are made. From kisses to flowers; chocolates and even diamonds exchanged to show that special someone how special he or she really is, February 14th is most definitely a day to celebrate the heart.
But what about the other days in the month? How can you celebrate your heart all month long? To help you with that, we’ve brought you 14 ways to do just that.
1. Volunteer your time
There’s nothing quite like giving your time to a cause to make you appreciate life. Whether it’s a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, or even shoveling the neighbor’s driveway, your heart will feel positive effects. In fact, research has found that people who volunteer on a regular basis are less likely to develop high blood pressure, and have a greater increases in psychological well-being and physical activity.
2. Get a massage
Getting a massage loosens muscles, rids the body of soreness and relaxes you. Those three things equate reduced stress. In fact, a regular massage regimen can reduce the risks associated with stress, such as cardiac arrhythmias.
3. Give someone a massage
While getting a massage is incredible for the heart, so is returning that favor to someone else. Maybe your husband or wife has endured some stressful days. Offer him or her a massage. And as you see the worries melt away, yours may in fact do the same as you give of yourself.
4. Call your mom
You’re an adult now, charged with making your own decisions, and you love that freedom. However, sometimes you just need to talk to your mother, and that’s OK. Tell her about your day, ask for advice, and even cry if you need to.
Sometimes you just need your mom.
5. Go for a run
Running has long been proven to help your heart health. And while it is most definitely recommended, if you don’t often run, take it a little slower and shorter. But, if you’re used to getting out there for several miles, follow your heart to your favorite place and pace for as long as time allows.
6. Go for a walk
Sure, running is great, but so is walking. Not only does your heart need to rest and relax, the slower pace may help you appreciate your surroundings a little bit more. Furthermore, the American Heart Association says that walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
7. Go for a swim
Much like running and walking, swimming can significantly improve your cardiovascular health. Not only that, but it has less of an impact on your bones and joints. If you’re not a swimmer, the University of California Berkeley says it’s not too late to start.
8. Practice Yoga
Yoga is an age-old practice that combines meditation, flexibility and movement into a near perfect exercise for your heart. According to Harvard Health, Yoga may help lower heart disease risk as much as conventional exercise, such as brisk walking.
9. Listen to classical tunes
If you need to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) mode, turn on some classical tunes. Perhaps Back, Beethoven, or even contemporary classical artists like Thomas Adès or Cheryl Frances-Hoad. Doing so may just let your heart begin to repair itself as well as other parts of your body.
Whether you’re a dancer or not, sometimes you just gotta’. An article in Harvard Health noted that dancing may offer brief bouts of higher-intensity exercise, as well as stress-relieving social connections. Even exercise classes that offer Zumba are great ways to improve heart health.
11. Pet a dog
If you’re an animal owner, you already know the benefits of spending time petting your furry friend. Doing so can help you zone out, again, activating that all-important parasympathetic nervous system.
If you don’t have a dog, we suggest you take a trip to your local animal shelter to check out the benefits for yourself.
12. Have a salad
Eating healthy has always been a key component in heart health, especially when it comes to the green stuff. So, eat a salad filled with a variety of green and other vibrantly colored vegetables. Here’s a great heart healthy recipe from the American Heart Association to get you started.
13. Write in your journal
Sometimes our hearts get broken, and February, particularly Valentine’s Day can be a painful reminder of that. In fact, divorce has been linked to cardiovascular changes like higher heart rate and lower heart rate variability.
In order to combat those effects, as study published in Psychometric Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, found that narrative journaling improved heart health including lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability.
14. Monitor your heart
Doing the above things will improve your heart health, however, knowing where your heart stands, or rather, how it beats will give you the reassurance that things are in fact going well.
By using a daily heart monitoring device, you will be able to monitor your daily HRV, so you can continue to celebrate your heart even after Heart Month is over.