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.
After you get out of bed, try a few basic stretches to loosen up your muscles and joints after lying down for so long. Although stretching doesn’t have a direct effect on the heart, “it is very helpful for keeping the body’s muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints healthy by reducing the risk of injury, soreness, aches, and pains during exercise,” says Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D, director of clinical and research exercise physiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “This will allow you to do more aerobic and resistance exercise, which keep the heart healthy, at a higher pace and for a longer time because you won’t be limited by your musculoskeletal system.” Check out these easy warm-up exercises to do before a workout.
Do some light yoga
Now that you’ve stretched, you’re ready for quick yoga session. This can be done right on your bedroom floor to help center your mind and body for the day ahead. In a study from Sweden participants with a heart problem called atrial fibrillation had a significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate after 12 weeks of practicing yoga. Plus, yogic breathing can help regulate heart rate and improve respiratory function. “Daily breathing practices may ‘train’ the body to be calmer,” says Emma Seppala, PhD, author of The Happiness Track and a Stanford University psychologist who’s done research on yogic breathing. “Preliminary studies have found that regularly practicing breathing exercises lowers one’s level of the stress hormone cortisol. Having lower levels of this hormone may be indicative of an overall calmer state of being, which may translate into less reactivity in the face of inevitable life stressors and less risk of heart disease.” These are some yoga poses to do every day.