As well as what we eat or drink, taking care of our emotions is vital in caring for a healthy heart
There is more to a healthy heart than what we eat or drink

A proactive way forward for our health.

The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation released a video this month called “Make Health Last.” It suggests that the choices we make can affect our health – in particular our heart health.  It asks us, “will you be strong enough to play tag with your grandchild?” It finishes with the strong statement, “Change your future!”

Every day we can make better food choices, exercise more frequently, and minimize alcohol consumption. On the negative side, ruminating about past hurts and reacting anxiously or angrily to current issues, can lead to feeling helpless and trapped in dealing with the waves of emotion most of us experience in life. And studies are beginning to show us that these thoughts can be far more damaging to our heart than eating a hamburger. On the other hand, learning to cultivate a sense of peace, gratitude and positivity can be beneficial in many ways.

In her book, “The Heart Speaks,” cardiologist Mimi Guaneri explains that she was trained to look at the heart as a merely physical entity, having no connection to a person’s emotional state. She then leads the reader through a personal journey interwoven with scientific research that is thought provoking. She introduces ideas about the relation between our emotional and physical heart that, though new to modern society, have an ancient lineage.

Many physicians today are rediscovering the ancient understanding that we are more than just a body with physical parts, and that medicines, while often helpful, do not always meet our health needs. New studies are now beginning to make the connection between emotional and physical wellbeing.

Throughout history, and in all the religious “wisdom” teachings, the heart is considered to be a central place of emotion and even the dwelling place of our spirit. The Bible of Judaism and Christianity has over 700 references to the heart. Biblical stories describe in vivid detail all the emotions and feelings of humanity, and how they can lead to a better or worse outcome for health and life.

Rather than seeing the body as a collection of chemicals and DNA within which we reside as helpless passengers, these ancient and practical teachings give a picture of man as something more, and provide answers that can potentially help us learn to calm thought and to encourage stronger, more positive responses to life’s challenges.

One of the oldest, simplest, and often most effective methods of calming and renewing thought is prayer.  In its more meditative form, it turns thought away from the emotions, and provides a safe haven for us to rest and to feel refreshed, giving a renewed sense of who we really are.  Jesus knew this when he reassuringly said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

The consistent practice of thoughtful prayer can quiet our troubled hearts and lead to a more confident way of dealing with life, and therefore improve our health. So rather than being passengers in life, the choice to live well – one thoughtful prayer at a time – puts us in the driver’s seat, making life healthier and more enjoyable.

This post was originally published in the Times Colonist in February 2013  HERE