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How to Have a Healthy Heart

When I was 15, I lost my dad. He died of a massive heart attack at age 52. Even as a teenager, I got the clear message that heart-health was a key to life.

We frequently hear about the importance of a healthy physical heart. We know about physical risk factors like smoking, substance abuse, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides. Our lifestyle, including the amount of stress and how we manage it, can also make a massive difference in the condition of our physical hearts.

What about the health of our emotional-spiritual heart?

What is the emotional-spiritual heart? It’s somewhat difficult to define, but it certainly includes the mind, emotions, and will. It encompasses the personality and what is commonly called the spirit or soul.

Most of us have had an EKG done at some point in our lives to measure the electrical activity and basic health of our physical hearts. What if we could have an emotional-spiritual EKG done? What would it show?

Wise King Solomon once said, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the spring from which everything else flows." These 3000 year-old words state simply what we already know: the health of our emotional-spiritual heart impacts everything.

Solomon uses the word "guard.” This tells me three things:

1. Our hearts are precious and important.

Solomon says our hearts are "the spring from which everything else flows." The heart is the crown jewel of our being. What is received and flows from it determines much of the quality of our lives and relationships.

Our hearts are of immeasurable value. They need watching over because they are priceless.

2. Our hearts are fragile and vulnerable.

Human hearts aren't made of titanium. The words and behavior they are exposed to affect them greatly. And no wonder. Our hearts were designed for connection and relationship. We somehow know our purpose here has something to do with loving and being loved.

Our hearts need guarding because they are vulnerable. They have to be. They were made for relationship.

3. Our hearts are subject to attack.

Rejection is a big part of our world. People and circumstances aren’t always kind. The info that daily bombards us is rarely positive. Our worries and concerns mount, and we get hit by loss after loss along the way. The pressure and stress are enough to send us reeling.

Our hearts are under constant assault. They need guarding.

How do we do this? What does "guarding" (watching over, giving attention to, protecting, nurturing, etc.) a heart look like?

Here are five suggestions:

1. Get around people who love and accept you.

These people are hope-givers and encouragers. They are positive and help you grow, heal, and laugh. Just the thought of them brings a smile to your face. These folks bring joy and make you glad to be alive.

These positive, helpful, and loving people nurture our hearts in ways we're not even aware. They’re fantastic medicine, with a wonderful side effect: the more we're with them, the more we become like them.

Being a loving, accepting, and positive person is incredibly heart-healthy.

2. Limit your exposure to people who aren’t healthy for you.

These folks drain and exhaust you. They're critical and judgmental. They freely dole out advice without ever being asked. They're always trying to fix you or the situation. They're controlling and negative. These doom-and-gloom complainers always seem ready to deal with your issues but never their own.

Their hearts aren't healthy, and if you spend too much time with them, they can strangle yours. Stay around people who are healthy and healing for you, and limit your exposure to the boundary-busters who aren't.

3. Get plenty of healthy "inflow."

Like your physical heart, your emotional-spiritual heart needs steady and proper nutrition to be healthy and function well. "Feed" your heart. That could mean reading, book clubs, self-study, or taking courses. It might mean church, spiritual growth groups or activities, or meeting with a mentor.

Hearts want to learn. They need healthy and healing input. Feeding yourself emotionally and spiritually is key to heart-health.

4. Engage in healthy "outflow."

Your heart needs emotional and spiritual "exercise" in order to be healthy. Hearts are made to love and be loved, and part of love is service. Find ways to give of yourself and your time, without burning yourself out. Churches, missions, and civic groups are excellent options. RSVP Senior Corp, Hospice Brazos Valley, and other organizations need willing and dedicated volunteers.

When you find your niche, your heart will thrive on serving. The world needs you. You’re more important than you know.

5. Discipline your mind.

Our minds often go where they don’t need to. Worry and fear often go together, and they are not a friendly combo. They damage and anesthetize more hearts than we realize.

As a friend once said, "Quit going over bridges that aren't even built yet, and may never be." Quit trying to control and fix. Let go of worry. Look for the positive. Develop eyes that see the good. Deliberately and intentionally encourage others. Discipline your mind.

A well-trained mind makes the heart smile. It feels more protected, freeing it to be more loving.

"Guard your heart," Solomon said. It's too precious and important not to. It determines everything. Get good people around you who know this and will spur you on. Feed your heart, and exercise it well in service. Discipline your mind to be positive and encouraging, and watch your heart flourish.

What might happen if we invested deeply in heart-health?

Let's find out...

Gary Roe is an author, speaker, and chaplain with Hospice Brazos Valley. Contact him at groe@hospicebrazosvalley.org or 979-821-2266, or visit him at www.garyroe.com.