Phew! I just got done an interval and weights training session which I haven’t done in a very, very long time. It felt so good to get the old love muscle working, to get that blood pumping through my veins. It also happened to be the start of Lent last week. You know, that time of year when it seems that everyone gives up chocolate or cake, or chocolate cake, or alcohol – depending on how dry January went – for 40 days but no one knows why. It also happened to be Valentines Day on Sunday. It seems to me that last week was love muscle week. That’s right, your old ticker, the old ‘strawberry’, the old “your heart is the size of a fist so fight with it”.
Our hearts are muscles which need to be tested in many different ways to grow. Just like any other muscle your heart needs working, perhaps even more so than others.
Hearts are synonymous with love but how many of us actually look after and take note of our hearts? And I don’t just mean when we feel heart broken or when we’ve just scoffed down our favourite bag of chocolate (mines Revels by the way), or enjoyed our favourite wine or laughing with friends. It’s easy to take note of our hearts in these times as we feel content and happy or overwhelmed with pain and sadness, but so often we brush our hearts off and just simply don’t look after our heart health.
So what do the three above events have in common? Well they all look after our heart health in very different ways.
Let’s take a look
One. I don’t just sprint and push weights around because I love my body, in fact I wish I did do it because I loved my body more, or because I somewhat enjoy it, or because I want my arms and butt to actually look like arms and a butt. I also do it because it’s great for my heart in many ways. Not only does physical exercise keep our hearts strong it also boosts good cholesterol, helps reduce fat, lowers blood pressure, decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, boosts energy, promotes better sleep, helps manage metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression and more. Exercise also affects our hormones and by releasing endorphins, aka. the feel good hormone, exercise can help us relax and ward off any unwanted anxiety, anger, frustration, stress and potentially depression.
So physical activity is an all round winner for our hearts, not only physically but emotionally too.
Two. Lent. What has this got to do with our heart health? Well other than potentially giving up sugar and/or alcohol for forty days, it has a bigger effect on our hearts than you might realise. RawRoots is not just about physical health but also emotional and spiritual health. Whether you give up something for forty days because you believe in Lent or not is irrelevant. The pure act and dedication of setting something aside, taking something up, focusing and being mindful of something for forty days is, believe it or not, looking after your heart health.
It’s not necessarily the act of completing these forth days which brings the true transformation but rather the understanding, acceptance and taking part in the process which can transform us. Our strength, our neurological pathways, our emotions, thoughts and focus can all go through the transformation ringer. It’s not unlike meditation – by focusing our attention on something else, being aware and paying attention to our surroundings and why we make certain choices – we can start to grow, change and transform not just ourselves but those around us.
It seems to me that Lent can be seen, especially by those outside of the Christian faith, as a crack and whip situation. Which it is not. As a nation with a stiff upper lip we generally don’t like to give in and so stumbling on a forty day fast is not a fall we want to make. The whole point of focusing our hearts and minds towards something other than us is to also understand failure and grace which follows. So instead of giving up something this year, and holding a whip to yourself whilst you do it, how about taking up something which pulls your focus away from negative habits or thinking and bring something new to your life which can help your heart flourish and be transformed.
Three. Valentine’s Day, or as I like to refer to it, St Hannah’s Day. Yep, it’s my birthday. Aside from that, Valentine’s Day is not always great for people. Somehow we’ve let a commercialised day get to us and determine how we feel about ourselves for a few weeks or so. This so-called “day of love” just serves to remind us of what we’ve had, or have, or long for. This only goes to show just how important love is to all of us, infact some people have even been known to die of a broken heart. February 14th, however, can be another day for our heart health. It’s always tough when there’s hearts, chocolates, flowers, red and pink everywhere. When you can’t go out to eat without being surrounded by couples on an allotted time slot dinner eating meals with names such as ‘Scrumptiously Sexy Spaghetti’ and ‘Dynamite your love chilli chocolate mousse’. Only to try and see a film surrounded by couples stuffing their faces, each other’s faces I may add. None of us appreciate this and we all understand (except the ones doing it of course).
Sure, this might sound cliche, but there are so many other love-filled relationships we all have which can be celebrated on February 14th (or any other day for that matter). So go and buy some chocolate and wine and celebrate a friendship… and preferably one you can bemoan to about the lack of love – after all, it is Valentine’s Day.
All that to say. Our hearts need a good health dosing, and often. Don’t just think gym and sweat, but think about time for yourself, a hobby, paying attention to what’s happening around you, bringing something new into your life to focus on and celebrating friendships which have passed the test of time.
Happy Heart Health Day (aka. Valentine’s Day)