The heart-health connection is clear: The more you self-reference, meaning, you use the pronouns, “I,” “me,” “my,” and “mine” during conversations more often than “other-oriented” pronouns, such as “you,” “your,” “our,” and “us,” the more you’re at risk for heart disease, a second heart attack, and death from a heart attack.
(For more information, please see the article, “Self-Involvement: A New Risk Factor for Heart Disease?”)
What might be the mechanism at work here? Sure, we all use self-references to communicate our viewpoint (“I like that”), or that we’re the owner of something ("That’s my coat.”). But when self-involvement is extreme, it’s likely you identify strongly with your thoughts, feelings, opinions, belongings, etc., so much so that you’re at increased risk of autonomic cardiovascular responses, such as increased blood pressure and constriction of your arteries.
Rx for Self-Involvement
If you’ve decided that you’re too self-involved, here are some strategies for turning your thoughts and conversations from “me” to “we.”
• First, become aware of your use of self-references, both in thought and speech. To get started, consider meditation. It’s a great way to quiet the mind, which in turn, can give you the opportunity to observe your thoughts. In this way, you can decide if you focus on yourself too much.
• Consider connecting with a just cause that means something to you, such as the environment, homelessness, or a health organization.
• Fall in love with pets, plants, people, and yourself.
Your aim is to find the best balance of love, attention, care, and regard that brings lasting fulfillment for both yourself and others. In other words, advocate for yourself and others with equal interest and intensity. All the while, remember, taking care of yourself empowers you to be your best for yourself and others.
Larry Scherwitz, PhD, and Deborah Kesten, MPH, are international lifestyle and health researchers and Certified Wellness and Cardiac coaches. They also are the award-winning authors of The Enlightened Diet, Feeding the Body, Nourishing the Soul, and The Healing Secrets of Food.