February is, of course, Valentine’s Day! With that, comes chocolate, roses, candy, and all sorts of other heart-themed treats! It seems only fitting that February is also American Heart Month; a time when we can focus on heart healthy lifestyle choices and practices. I think we are all familiar with some of the things we can do to promote heart health – eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight – but did you know that thankfulness has also been shown to help your heart stay healthy?
The connection between our mind and bodies has been the topic of conversation for quite some time, and many forms of exercise, such as Yoga and Meditation, center around that connection. However, there is also a strong connection between the mind and the heart, and this connection has been the subject of recent studies, showing that a healthy heart may lower the risk of dementia and memory loss. Heart disease and dementia share several risk factors, so protecting the heart can also help protect the brain. Thankfulness and positive reactions can help foster heart health. Furthermore, if we can train our brains to turn negative thought processes around and focus on positive ones, we can have a greater positive impact on our heart and mental health.
So, we know thankfulness and gratitude are good for us, but how can we cultivate those positive thoughts? Just like many things, gratitude is a learned behavior, so we can train ourselves to be thankful!
Here are a few ways to start incorporating thankfulness into your lives:
Make it a Habit
They say it takes 30 days to turn something into a habit. Say “thank you” whenever possible. From the minute you wake up in the morning until you climb back into bed at night, say “thanks” whenever possible. Take notice of all the opportunities to show your gratitude.
Keep a Journal
Create a “Thankfulness Journal” to keep track of all the things you are thankful for. Keeping a written note not only serves as a great reminder to be positive, but it helps reinforce that positivity! And you can choose to keep your journal in an actual journal, or on your smartphone so you can always keep it with you.
It is very easy to get lost in “what’s next” and worry about what’s happening next. Instead, try and focus on the present. Enjoy the “now” and be thankful for the little things. Whether you’re enjoying a delicious meal, spending time with loved ones, or enjoying a lovely conversation, focus on being completely present in the moment and appreciate each experience.
Try incorporating thankfulness into your lifestyle and help support that healthy mind, body, heart connection!
Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways