Steven looked down at his plate. There was some kale there, and a few colorful things his wife assured him were delicious peppers, and a piece of chicken only slightly larger than his business card.
“This,” he asked, “is dinner?”
“Yes,” his wife Stacey replied. “It’s from the heart healthy cookbook your doctor recommended.” For years, Stacey had been cooking up Steven’s favorites: fried fish, fried potatoes, lots of cheeseburgers, fried cheese sticks. But she wanted to keep her hubby around a lot longer, and his heart attack had really scared her. So she was willing to change.
Steven, on the other hand, wasn’t as eager. He looked at his plate and shook his head. “I’m not sure it’s worth it.”
Sound familiar? Making lifestyle changes can be a big part of your heart health routine. Altering what we eat, how much we eat, our levels of physical activity, giving up tobacco – these are all challenging things. Best of all, we’re asked to make these changes at the same time we’re supposed to be keeping our stress levels down!
Any change is uncomfortable, but sometimes it is necessary. It’s easy to stay motivated & focused in the immediate aftermath of a cardiac event – there’s nothing like the echo of those heart monitors beeping in your ears to drown out the cheesecake calling you from the fridge! – but with time, we forget. That’s when it’s easy to become frustrated with the greens & grains and start hankering for a big old cheeseburger with a side of everything, fried.
Giving into those cravings can be bad for your health. It can also be very emotionally upsetting for everyone who’s invested in you getting better when you ‘slip’. Many couples report that they’ve had conflict – even full blown fights – over the need for lifestyle change after a cardiac event.
Humor helps. It really does. Laughter can’t make kale taste like cheeseburgers, but it can alleviate some of the frustration you’re feeling when you’re faced with a plate of rabbit food. It feels good to laugh, even at dumb jokes. Don’t believe me? Try this:
What happens to a frog’s car when it breaks down?
It gets toad away?
Even if you didn’t laugh – if all you did was smile! – enjoying that tiny bit of humor had a powerful impact on your health. Your body relaxes when you laugh. Experiencing positive emotion lowers the blood pressure, improves circulation, and lifts the mood. You can use humor as a motivating reward: if you go to the trainer and do your exercises the way you’re supposed to, treat yourself to a favorite comedy movie. And don’t forget to laugh with the people who love you: not only are you bringing their stress levels down, you’re strengthening the bond you have with them.