It’s February and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Valentine’s Day gives us a wonderful opportunity to celebrate love and to show the ones we love how much we care about them. It doesn’t have to be a big production. Often the smallest gesture can make a huge difference: a night off from cooking for your wife, a phone call to your dad, a visit with your neighbour. Such gestures speak volumes.

February is also Heart Month. This is a great opportunity to remind us to carve out time to love ourselves and to take care of one of our most important assets - our hearts.

Heart disease and stroke remain one of the number one killers in Canada, it is killing one Canadian every seven minutes.  Medical and technological advances mean more and more people are not only surviving heart disease and stroke, but are recovering and thriving afterwards.

We all know someone, or love someone who has suffered a heart attack, stroke or cardiac event. Sometimes the victim seems the fittest fellow or healthiest woman we know, sometimes not. It can seem random and always unfair. Statistics show some of us are at higher risk for cardiac events and strokes than others. There is nothing we can do to change our genes, our family history or our past behavior. But there is much we can do to reduce our risk now.

Risk reduction requires lifestyle changes and that is hard. Lifestyle changes always seem to mean deprivation, sacrifice and loss of joy. Stop doing this. Cut down on that. Eliminate this. Never do that. No wonder it’s so difficult! 

Stress is a huge contributor to heart disease. Stress also plays a big part in our ability to make healthy choices including maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding alcohol and smoking, staying active and enjoying social interaction. Focusing on adding good things to our lives rather than subtracting negatives can sometimes be an easier way to contemplate change.

There are many ways to manage stress in your life. And though it will require some discipline ultimately the idea is to add more joy to your life!

So this February, and beyond, as we celebrate love and our loved ones lets find some ways we can add joy to our lives by also celebrating self love and self care.

1)    Meditate, pray or sit in silence for five or ten minutes every day
2)    Call a friend
3)    Dance
4)    Stretch
5)    Sing
6)    Eat breakfast every day, preferably with someone
7)    Celebrate milestones and accomplishments, even the smallest ones
8)    Forgive
9)    Eat fruit for dessert, oranges are sweet and delicious this time of year
10)   Hold hands with someone when you go for a walk
11)   Volunteer
12)   Find a hobby
13)   Do something that gets your heart pumping every day
14)   Kiss and hug every time you say hello or goodbye

Happy Valentine’s Day!