For Valentine’s Day this year, I thought I’d talk to you about love… with a little twist.
In fact, today’s message is something my own therapist taught me years ago. It’s not something I have down to a science—but it is something I think about all the time.
And I always ask my patients to follow the same advice…
Be kind to yourself.
Of course, this doesn’t give you a greenlight to be selfish or unkind to others. It simply means treating yourself with the same care and patience you would show to anyone you love.
Because when it comes to your heart, this simple act of kindness is beneficial in more ways than one…
Compassion clears arteries
A recent study from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that middle-aged women who practice self-compassion had a lower risk of heart disease. (And that’s independent of key factors like high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance.)
Researchers had nearly 200 women between 45 and 67 years old complete questionnaires asking them to rate their self-compassion. (For example, how often they felt inadequate or disappointed in themselves, versus whether they were caring and tender with themselves.)
The scientists also performed standard ultrasounds of the subjects’ carotid arteries. (The major vessel in your neck that shuttles blood from your heart to your brain.)
And surprise, surprise: Women who scored higher in self-compassion also had less plaque build-up—and a lower risk of heart attack and stroke down the line.
Of course, there’s already a ton of research showing how stress negatively impacts heart health. But it’s exciting to see some exploration into the power of positive psychology and mindfulness. As these are two natural stress-relieving techniques that absolutely do make a difference.
Embrace optimism and mindfulness
Nowadays, we’re all exhausted in more ways than one… from the pandemic to finances… to grandkids and pets… the list goes on.
Why do you think we’re seeing so many people quitting their jobs, re-evaluating their priorities, or moving house?
And these daily stressors have amplified—especially for women. (In fact, research from across the globe shows that women still shoulder most of the caregiving burden for children and older relatives.)
Not to mention, cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death among women. And, as I just reported last week, even younger women face a heightened stroke risk.
So, if something as simple as self-compassion can help protect your heart (and your mood)? Well, why not make it a goal to be kind to yourself, starting TODAY?!
Start embracing optimism and mindfulness… whether it’s through meditation, yoga, or taking a walk or sitting in a calm and quiet space… regardless if you’re a man or a woman. Managing stress (and ultimately, safeguarding your heart) often requires turning inward.
And the truth is, you simply cannot care for others if you don’t care for yourself first.
Let me know what you’re going to do today, on Valentine’s Day, to be kind to yourself. (Remember, you deserve to love yourself!) I’d also love to hear how you’ll keep the self-compassion going all year. Send me an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for me, well, I’m going to take some time to walk and play with my beloved Remington. Then, throughout the year, I’m going to continue being kind to my body through clean eating, exercise, and of course, vacation.
“Women who practice self-compassion are at lower risk of cardiovascular disease: Practicing kindness is good for your body.” Science Daily, 12/16/2021. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/12/211216150034.htm)