Happy February! It’s American Heart month and Valentine’s Day is fast-approaching, emphasizing the importance of caring for your own heart and the hearts of those you hold dear. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has crowned the heart as the emperor of the body, as it houses the spirit also known as “shen”. The “shen” is translated as spirit, intellect and consciousness. When the shen is strong, the body is also strong. Without the guidance of a clear shen, the body is unhealthy. And so, heart health is much more than the physical health of the organ that pumps blood throughout the body. Heart health is body, mind and spirit health.
Food For the Physical Heart
Foods that nourish the blood are particularly beneficial for the heart. TCM considers dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and watercress nourishing as well as kidney and aduki beans. Beetroot, figs, dates and grapes in small quantities are also iron-rich and helpful. Small amounts of high quality protein in the form of chicken, turkey and fish and also recommended. Avoiding foods with a high saturated and trans fat content is prudent in terms of both Eastern and Western medicine.
Try this heart-healthy soup recipe from the American Heart Association, perfect for a chilly winter day:
Caring for the Mind and Spirit
What you think about daily and/or how you think often determines your health status. Think about that for a minute. Do you awaken thinking, “Oh no, not another day at that place or with that person.” or “I can’t wait until the weekend” and it’s only Monday? Does every person driving on the road seem to want to make your day miserable? Do negative thoughts invade your mind more frequently than positive thoughts? The good news is, you can change this! It just takes practice, patience and a little time. Establish a routine each day which might only be 5-10 minutes each morning and evening, where you practice self-talk. Sometimes writing down positive thoughts or your goals for the day can be helpful also. Maybe you need to practice more kindness towards yourself. It’s difficult to be kind to others if you don’t value self-kindness. If you have a religious practice, make it a daily routine. If you don’t, start a mindfulness-based practice. Make it your goal to share a kindness with another each day–even if it’s as simple as holding the door open for someone or saying, “thank you”. A kindness shared has a rippling effect in the world.
Try these simple mindfulness exercises to nourish your mind and spirit:
And Don’t Forget…..
Regular physical activity will help keep you energized, fit, focused and less-stressed. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days weekly and moderate to high intensity strength training activity at least 2 days weekly. Don’t worry if you aren’t yet doing this! Start small, with 10-15 minutes at a time. If you have been sedentary and haven’t exercised aerobically in a while, please see your primary care health provider first before starting an exercise program. You want to know what your heart can handle before you start, without any surprises.
During the rest of this month, spend some time focusing on caring for your heart health. By nurturing your heart, you are nurturing your body, mind and spirit. A healthy heart is more able to share kindness and care for others. Wishing you a heart abundant with kindness, peace, joy and compassion.
Until we chat again,