14/02/2017 08:27 SAST | Updated 14/02/2017 08:34 SAST

How To Have A Heart, And Love Your Own, This Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day was never intended to be a day selling cards or flowers or chocolates. Saint Valentine was a 14th century Roman saint who is commemorated on the 14th of February. With his patronage including love, courtship and married couples, the day evolved into its current form of gifts and commercial interests. And an ensemble cast film that didn't exactly set the world on fire.

To be honest, I've never been one for old V-day, which stems back to a embarrassing time as an 8-year-old when a classmate picked me flowers and placed them on my desk. I was so embarrassed that I cried and pretended to be sick at school.

As a less easily embarrassed adult, I still find Valentine's Day to be a bit much. It's supposed to be good for our hearts and souls but, to me, there are some other worthwhile things to do for your heart and those of the people around you.

Support 'V-Day'

V-Day is a global movement to support an end to violence against women and girls. Sadly, around the world, women are some of the most vulnerable people. With domestic violence, rape or female genital mutilation still affecting women everywhere, V-Day was started by Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler after a benefit raised money for women affected by violence.

On Valentine's Day eve, the play is performed around the world to raise proceeds to projects that make a difference to violence against women. Data from the United Nations states that one in three women around the world will be a victim, so this issue is incredibly important to every single one of us. If you can get a long to a 'V-Day' event, you definitely should, but otherwise, there are wonderful ways to support the fight against violence, such as homegrown organisation White Ribbon and take a pledge.

Donate to HeartKids' Sweetheart Day

One of the most challenging but rewarding times in my career was working with children who were born with congenital heart disease. Some of these beautiful children ad families fight through multiple heart operations from as young as a day old.

With eight babies born in Australia every day with a heart problem, HeartKids Australia provides support and raises vital funds to research how these little hearts are made and how they can be fixed. On Sweetheart's Day, you can donate on the website, buy merchandise and don't forget to spread the word about children's congenital heart disease.

So instead of getting stuck into Cadbury treats, get out and about. If you're celebrating the romanticism of the day, take along your significant other for a walk, to the beach or on a bike.

Get your heart pumping

With the days still warm Down Under, there is no better time to get outside and get active. The runner's high that makes you feel like you're invincible after a run are tied to hormones made in the brain called endorphins.

Although the science behind a runner's high is more complex than just endorphins, there's no denying that getting your blood pumping feels damn good. It lowers your blood pressure, drives down stress hormones that make you feel awful and is much healthier for you than the box of chocolates you may or may not get.

So instead of getting stuck into Cadbury treats, get out and about. If you're celebrating the romanticism of the day, take along your significant other for a walk, to the beach or on a bike.

Throw some love around

While a lot of research has demonstrated the positive effects of marriage on health, just affection and love are great for your mental and physical health. Hugging someone releases a bonding hormone oxytocin, which lowers blood pressure.

On the metal health side, being in a secure relationship improves your ability to cope with stress and stave off anxiety and depression. Not only that, but the stress busting properties of love help fight illness including angina.

And if you're single? Well, doesn't matter because you can still get the same physical and psychological benefits from spending time with your friends. Our hearts love to be with other hearts and it's an easy way for a healthy heart and mind.

So this Valentine's Day, don't wait for roses or a dinner invitation. Or even if you do have that lined up for this February 14th, do something else good for your heart or for those of others and get the warm, fuzzy feelings that love for yourself and others is all about.


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