Spend this month in love with yourself
February is considered a month of love.
Valentine’s Day –- for years this day was celebrated by couples. It was a day to show your loved ones that they meant the world to you. It was a day to shower your honey with sensual pleasures: tasty food, fine wine, delectable chocolates and don’t forget the romance with candlelight and soft music. A day made in heaven for the sensual.
It’s a day to use your love language: (one or more of the following) gifts, affirmations, acts of service, physical touch or quality time to express love to your partner.
In recent years, with so many young adults still single and so many marriages ending in divorce, the day has been transformed: GALENTINE’S DAY – A day to express love and friendship to others in your circle – absolutely brilliant and essential… if only this holiday were a weekly event.
The American Heart Association then co-opted this month as national heart month. February is now a month to stop and learn about heart disease. Heart disease is still the number one killer in the USA. What causes heart disease? What can you do to help prevent heart disease for you and your loved ones?
Although genetics always plays a role in our health, genetics are only one piece of the puzzle. Health and wellness, disease and illness are dictated by the interconnection of your genes and the environment. The Exposome is the sum total of all that your genes are exposed to – this is the key to wellness.
Lifestyle is a collection of modifiable factors that can affect your genes as well as those of your personal Microbiome (the bacteria that live in and on your body). Human DNA has about 20 thousand genes while the microbiome that inhabits your body has over 200 million genes.
So, What Are Lifestyle Factors?
Diet is critical – diet is energy and calories for your body; the nutrients (vitamins and minerals and more) are computer code/software for the hardware in your cells (enzymes) AND undigested food is food for the bacteria in your gut.
What you eat determines who you are at the microbiome level. Which bacteria live in your gut determines which foods get absorbed and also determine which neurotransmitters get produced—hence your mood is connected to your diet. Not ingesting toxins is also critical to good gut health and overall wellness. Hydration is also key since we are 66% water.
Movement—moving your body and sweating affects the neurotransmitters and other molecules such as endorphins, endocannibinoids and Substance P – all of which affect your mood as well as level of pain vs ease/flow. Movement also promotes motility in the gut which helps you excrete waste daily.
Sleep is when our minds are allowed to rest and repair. Sleep is a time when the brain dumps its toxic waste and when the gut needs to repair itself and regenerate its lining to be ready for the next day’s food.
Sleep is critical to good health. Too many Americans skimp on sleep and pay the price the next day. Good sleep starts with the morning routine: too much caffeine even in the morning may affect a good night’s rest, too much light in the evening (think computers, TVs and cell phones) can disrupt melatonin and other sleep/wake cycle hormones, alcohol can interfere with deep sleep, and a sedentary lifestyle can also get in the way of good sleep.
Stress too may make it hard to calm and quiet down the mind at the end of the day. A bedtime routine with a warm tea, gentle bath, self-massage and a good book may help you fall asleep. A meditation practice and a forgiveness practice may also come in handy (forgive yourself for what you didn’t get done or perhaps for what you wish you hadn’t said or did and forgive others the same).
Self-Care, Relaxation, and Stress Reduction
We live in a rapidly changing fast-paced society. Our bodies and minds often live in a hypervigilant state—often on the go running from activity to activity, from deadline to deadline without a moment to breathe. And even in this last year, when we have been stuck at home—some of us rather than appreciating the forced slow down and pause, have been so preoccupied with the fear of catching COVID, or the stress of forced rapid adaption to a “new normal”, and the anxiety of when life will get back to “normal” that the PAUSE has been anything other than a reset to relaxation. Rather, for many, it has been a rewiring into a persistent state of anxiety or depression. While having goals and dreams keeps up revved up and moving forward, our bodies do best when there is a balance between the sympathetic (fight or flight, freeze or fawn) system and the Parasympathetic (rest and digest, relax and reproduce) nervous systems.
To take care of the self—we need to introduce meditation and meditative hobbies. We need to incorporate pleasure and joy into our everyday life. Living from vacation to vacation and excelling at the practice of delayed gratification of joy is a recipe for burnout—we need to have hobbies and express creativity regularly. We need to learn what brings us pleasure and makes us laugh and make time for this every day. And we need to purge our mind of toxic thoughts and ruminations regularly. And as a society, we need a safety net for those out of work due to circumstances beyond their control—we cannot de-stress if our basic needs of food and shelter cannot be met.
Relationships and Community
Humans are social animals who thrive best in community. Solitary confinement has been used a tool for torture for millennia. In this year of a pandemic-induced quarantine, many have been forced into smaller and smaller “pods”. This isolation can be devastating to the human soul and psyche. It is critical to recognize that people need community – as a society we need to create connection in our communities. If we are living alone, it is essential that we reach out and find support and friends—even if it is outside your comfort zone to do just that. Physical distancing does NOT mean avoidance of socialization.
What is the AMERICAL HEART ASSOCIATION telling us?
–heart disease is killing us.
We have the power to prevent this insidious murderer.
IT STARTS WITH US.
Let this Valentine’s Day be the day YOU PRIORITIZE YOU. AND begin prioritizing you.
It is not selfish to practice self-care. When you take care of yourself completely, you will have more energy and more love and be around longer for your loved ones. So, in practicing self-love, you are really loving your family, friends, partners and community.
Happy Valentine’s Day.