Relax into a heart-healthy bedtime routine
Resist the urge to binge-watch your current Netflix obsession, and try to head to bed at the same time each night. “Heart-healthy activities include setting a regular bedtime to get into a good sleeping pattern,” Dr. Ostfeld says. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people who don’t sleep enough are at greater risk for heart disease, possibly due to its effects on metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation. While in bed, try a mindful meditation to help you relax into sleep. “Repeating ‘om’ chanting at least nine times, and then alternating loud chanting with silent recollection for the next five times takes us from sound to silence, slowly leading us to harmony and eventually silencing the mind,” says Savita Joshi, E-RYT, MBA, B.E, a yoga therapist at Yoga Bharati. Finally, as the old song goes, “count your blessings instead of sheep,” to return full-circle to the gratitude you practiced at the start of the day.
Wake up with gratitude
Good heart health starts in the mind. According to the American Heart Association, a mental state of stress can increase blood pressure, which can worsen heart health. “Stress can raise the level of certain hormones and rev up the sympathetic nervous system, which, if it occurs chronically, may not be optimal for health,” says Robert Ostfeld, M.D., cardiologist, director of preventive cardiology at Montefiore Health System, and founder and director of the Montefiore-Einstein Cardiac Wellness Program. To set the tone for the day, when you first wake up, try a mental technique called gratitude to remind yourself of all the good things in your life, before you start getting overwhelmed by the tasks of the day. ‘Having a grateful outlook is a way to help keep the bad from overpowering the good in your life,” says Deborah Serani, PsyD, award-winning author of Living with Depression and a psychology professor at Adelphi University. “Like a glass half full, learning how to be grateful can help put stress into perspective.” In addition to lowering stress levels, research from the University of Illinois shows that a more grateful mindset can lead you to take greater care of your health. Try these other morning mindfulness exercises.