No matter where you live, February is a hunker-down month. Whether it’s the weather, or the realization that it’s going to take more than a New Year’s promise to effect serious personal change, or the fact that you’re emotionally hung over from the holidays (followed by the obligatory January dig-out), February is a good month to re-focus. So what five things can you do for your health this month?
1) February is National Heart Month - for obvious reasons! With heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes occurring in younger and younger people (generally due to obesity), Heart Month can be a good reason to boost your New Year’s resolve to live a healthier life. February is the plateau month for resolutions, when it’s crucial to assess what’s worked so far, what hasn’t worked, and to re-affirm your reasons to change. If you’re wavering - are you skipping days to exercise? changing your plans at the last minute to justify food/exercise relapses? thinking evil thoughts about how “ridiculous” your attempt to change is - then it’s important to recognize those warning signs and rally your cheerleading support systems. Consider shortening your timeline for success - instead of “forever” why not re-commit to change your life until mid-April (10 weeks) - knowing that most resolutions die mid-March. Once you make it to mid-April, you can re-evaluate then. Finally, keep in mind that one of the absolutely most profoundly positive things you can do for your heart (and the hearts of those you love) is to stop smoking. Recent news reveals that stopping smoking can even benefit an entire city - an excellent high-quality study showed that a city-wide smoking ban resulted in a whopping 41% drop in the heart attack rate.
2) Valentine’s va-voom - rev up your luv engines by getting yourself checked under the hood. Yes, folks, it’s time to - (choose your favorite double-entendre phrase:) get your oil changed, clean your dipstick, lube up, or have your wheels rotated - possibly all at the same time. Nothing says true love like a clean bill of sexual health. But hey- some of you are saying - I don’t have any symptoms. There are important guidelines for screening in people with no symptoms at all. Why is that? Well, a medical rule-of-thumb estimate is that, if you took a snapshot of all Americans with gonorrhea at any one point in time - 80% have no symptoms (eek) - which is how these germs keep getting passed around! Check in - with your doctor, or your local public health STD clinic, or Planned Parenthood - to make sure you’re firing on all four cylinders in honor of Valentine’s Day. Hey, the nice thing is, with advances in testing technology - you don’t have to get up on the rack to do it.
3) February manages to include both World Thinking Day (2/22) and No Brainer Day (2/27), reminding all of us that keeping those synapses firing is an important, life-long commitment. Board games are apparently making a resurgence in this down economy (proving there is a silver lining to almost every cloud). In February, with everyone indoors early, it’s a great month to turn off the TV (which may be depressing your teens) and start laughing, arguing, teasing, whooping, and - most important of all - pondering over a game. Maybe cutting out cable to save some money isn’t such a bad idea after all…
4) February also includes National Organ Donor Day (2/14). Families of people who have donated often speak of the healing it provides the survivors. Filling out an organ donor card (and telling your loved ones about your decision) truly is a gift of life. Even if you have serious health problems, being donor is still an important and extremely valuable act - corneas to restore sight, skin for burn victims’ temporary grafts, and other donations can change and save lives. If you’re not comfortable donating your solid organs, consider making a liquid, living, (and totally self-restoring!) donation of blood. And hey - if you’re into living green - consider the fact that being a donor is the ultimate act of recycling!
5) Every month needs a giggle (or ten) and February is no different. Nurturing your joy habit is an important part of staying healthy. Consider celebrating Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day (2/11), or Love Your Pet Day (an obvious source of profound joy for many of us- 2/21). Or maybe you’re more the Hoodie-Hoo Day type - where you go outside on February 20 and shout hoodie-hoo to scare off winter (if nothing else, it has to be cathartic…). And whatever you do, don’t let February 17 pass by unnoticed - it is Random Acts of Kindness Day.
Be warm, be well, be wonderful.