February is American Heart month. What better reason to focus on making your heart a HAPPY one!?! Whether you have a romantic partner or not, let this month remind you to express LOVE and live a more satisfying life. Buy yourself flowers, cook up a fresh meal for someone special, get on the yoga mat enjoy a class. Choose to do things that make you feel healthy, loved, and inspired. Need ideas on how to get started? Here are my top 10 ways to make this month a healthy and happy one. These are a few suggestions I believe might help you LOVE your life this February. Of course if anything else “lights your life fire” I say GO for it. This is the month to treat yourself to health and make your heart a happy one. Choose to live a life you love. Happy Heart month to you ALL!
Caroline’s top 10 Ways to make Valentines Day HAPPY.
1. Master a heart-opening yoga pose. “Yoga poses that open the chest, the home of the heart, help keep your posture and your mood HAPPY.” says B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the world’s greatest living yoga gurus who is largely responsible for introducing yoga to the West. Doing even simple heart-opening poses allows the collar bones to spread, chest to expand, and the entire heart area to be flooded with space, lightness, and oxygen. Here are a many ideas on all sorts of fun heart-opening poses, thanks YOGA JOURNAL! Which one is your favorite? I am a big fan of backbends. The one below is often called, “Wild Thing” 🙂
2. Take care of your ticker. How healthy is your heart? “Over 800,000 Americans died from heart attacks and other cardiac illnesses last year,” reports preventive cardiologist Lori Mosca, MD, founder of Columbia University Medical Center’s Preventive Cardiology Program. “Sadly but most of these deaths, at least four out of five, were preventable.” Even if you are genetically predispositioned for heart disease, you can cut your risks dramatically by pursuing a heart healthy lifestyle. Bring awareness to your current health status and develop a heart healthy wellness plan that keeps your heart in top shape. Focus on eating a healthy diet, exercising, quitting smoking, and stressing less. And be sure to visit your doctor for regular check-ups. Check out some of my top tips on living heart healthy. A healthy heart is a happy one. Be proactive and prevent heart disease from happening.
3. Say “I love you” with a healthy dinner. For a delicious and affordable way to say “I love you” cook up a heart healthy meal at home. Whether you bust out the apron for that special someone or make your roommate a meal that doesn’t come from a box – cook up a meal to show appreciation for someone in your life. Check out these healthy recipes and menus from Eating Well, and Cooking light. A great way to get to the heart is to give to the stomach….delight someone with a delicious meal this month for a lovely treat.
4. Profess your gratitude to someone unexpected. Say thank-you to someone and show them how grateful you are to have them in your life. It’s such a small thing, but it can have a huge impact on your life, and the life of that person. When you find little ways to incorporate gratitude into your life, you’ll be much happier and the people around you will be happier as well. That happiness has the ripple effect that can make the world a better place … and all it takes is that small gesture of THANKS.
5. Buy Dark Chocolate. Eat it. If you’re anything like me, you have a love affair with chocolate. The average American consumes about 12 pounds of chocolate a year. With Valentine’s Day, February tends to be a particularly popular time to eat more of it than usual. Believe it or not, indulging in the right kinds of chocolate in moderation can actually be healthy. A recent study, published just in time for Valentine’s Day, states that dark chocolate is the “heart-healthy” way to go, not only on Valentine’s day, but all year long. Dr. Gary Kaplan, director of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, says: “The research is clear: dark chocolate is chock-full of antioxidants that fight dangerous ‘free radicals’ in your body, and it also provides significant protection against cardiovascular disease.”
However, its important to remember that not all chocolate is created equal and it isnt a free pass to gorge on sugar. King Size Twix, Heath Bars, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, and other processed forms of chocolate will not provide optimum health benefits. You want to consume moderate servings of qualitychocolate, without the added junk. Here are some key points to remember before diving into the candy:
- The higher percentage of cocoa in the chocolate, the better for your health it is. Stick to 70% cocoa or higher.
- Other kinds of chocolate, such as white chocolate and milk chocolate do not produce the same kind of health benefits, only dark chocolate does.
- Although health benefits have been proven from eating dark chocolate, it is still better not to exceed 1.5-3.5 ounces a day, and to also make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet, for example, plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Don’t eat chocolate before bed – it contains caffeine, which will hurt your sleeping habits, and therefore impair your health.
- Remember, chocolate is high calories, remember to exercise and balance your diet when consuming chocolate in order to keep your current weight.
The healthiest way to indulge your chocolate cravings is by eating raw organic unprocessed cacao beans (also known as nibs.) You can purchase cocoa nibs at health food stores. They can be eaten by the handful, added to trail mix, or sprinkled on your cereal in the morning. The next best option is organic unroasted cocoa powder (non-alkalized.) Mix it with almond milk for a delicious chocolaty drink or use it in baking. Another great way to get your healthy chocolate fix is by eating organic dark chocolate with the highest percentage of cocoa and lowest amount of refined sugar (bitter or semi-sweet dark chocolate.) Since the good news about dark chocolate is out, it is widely available, even at your supermarket. Shop for chocolate that has at least 70% cacao (it will tell you this on the package. Some of my personal favorite brands are “Endangered Species” and “One Lucky Duck”. You want to make sure to limit your intake to about 1 oz once in a while (not every 10 minutes). This valentines day, INDULGE your taste buds in a new dark chocolate treat and incorporate it into a balanced diet for life fulfilling results 😉
6. Take someone special out on a date. Spice it up and get creative. Skip the worn out “dinner and a movie routine” and try something more adventurous with your loved ones. Think outside the box and create a memory that will last. Maybe a sunset hike, cooking class, or road trip to a unique spot.
7. Try out a new cardio workout. Your regular routine feeling boring? Mix it up with a new cardio workout! Walk, run, hike, bike, swim, skate, jump, play…. there are lots of fantastic ways to get your heart pumping. For optimum heart happiness, choose cardio that you find fun, rather than see as “obligation”. Make your workouts social by catching up with a friend on a run or be adventurous by trying out an “indoor trampolining” class at House of Air. This month, spice it up! Choose a new cardio activity and GET moving to improve your heart’s health and happiness.
8. Be a Nature Lover. Buy yourself flowers. Go for a walk on the beach. Sit and watch the sunset. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the world around you. Soak in the goodness – our world is beautiful!
9. Rub a dub dub – Soothe yourself in the TUB. Epsom salt may sound BOGUS, but its a technique used by many to promote recovery and aid in stress relief. Magnesium – the key component of Epsom Salt — performs more functions in more systems of the human body than virtually any other mineral, including regulating the activity of more than 325 enzymes. Medical research indicates that magnesium may reduce inflammation and relieves pain, making it a beneficial in the treatment of sore muscles, bronchial asthma, migraine headaches and fibromyalgia. Soaking in Epsom salt is an inexpensive way to rest, relax, and rejuvenate yourself. Click HERE to learn more about the benefits of magnesium sulfate and get my much more enjoyable recipe for an Epsom Salt Bath. Whole Foods Market has a variety of scented salts and bubbly products on special for February. Splurge on your favorite scents, grab that book you always want to make time for, and spend an hour soaking in bubbly water. You deserve to be nice to yourself 🙂
10. Strength train your BODY LOVING. We could all use a little work on our body confidence and Valentines day is the perfect reason to give love – to YOURSELF. Not sure how to turn off your inner critic? Click here for my top tips to help you feel fabulous about yourself. Take a moment this holiday to really WORK on your confidence, self-awareness, and self-acceptance. Enjoy, celebrate, explore, play, love, and appreciate your unique body and savor how good it feels to move your body every day. This Valentines day, express LOVE to your body!
- Benefits of Massage. My top picks? Jen Rubinstein “UNLOCK your body“, Joel Banuelos “San Francisco Bodywork, and Marie Thiebaud Structual Integration and Massage .
- On that Beat Playlist.
- TWEET TWEET! Connect with me on twitter.
- My all time FAVORITE yoga instructor returns to teaching at URBAN FLOW. Check out Stephanie Snyder. You can thank me later 😉