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Study: Show yourself compassion and lower your risk of heart attack 

The Homepage, published by Hazelwood Initiative

By Juliet Martinez

Around Valentine’s Day, love and hearts are everywhere. Did you know you can make your own heart healthier by showing yourself some love?

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Showing yourself compassion can improve your heart health.Image by Ray Gerard

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. But a recent study showed practicing self-compassion can lower your risk of heart disease. Self-compassion is a lot like the kindness you show to your friends and your kids. In this case, you turn it towards yourself.

Rebecca Thurston is a professor of psychiatry, clinical and translational science, epidemiology, and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. She told Science Daily that until now, researchers have not looked into how positive thoughts affect our bodies.

This even works if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Being kind to yourself is scientifically proven to make your heart healthier.

"These findings underscore the importance of practicing kindness and compassion, particularly towards yourself," Thurston said. "Our research suggests that self-compassion is essential for both our mental and physical health."

How can you use self-compassion?

Psychiatrist David Burns recommends a three-column journal in his book, Feeling Great. By using this simple technique, you can change your thought patterns for the better.

First, divide a page into three columns. The first column is where you write what you’re thinking and feeling when you’re feeling stressed out.

In the second column, ask yourself these questions: Is this thought true? Is it kind? Would you criticize or judge a dear friend that way?

In the third column, think of a kinder and more useful response. When you tell yourself more compassionate things, you feel less stressed. Your breathing can then slow down and your heart can stop racing.

Read through the sample three-column journal below. It gives examples of harsh thoughts that might be causing our stress. And it shows how we can identify and change them to something gentler.

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Three-column sample journal for self-compassion and stress reliefGraphic by Juliet Martinez

Developing this journaling habit is an easy way to be more self-compassionate. It is free and you can do it any time, day or night. It can help anyone of any gender have a happier mood. Giving yourself this kindness can not only extend your life, it will help you enjoy life more.

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The Homepage is a print newspaper delivered monthly to households in Greater Hazelwood, Glen Hazel, Greenfield, Hays, New Homestead, Lincoln Place and The Run. Hazelwood Initiative, Inc., a community-based nonprofit, publishes The Homepage through a grant from the City of Pittsburgh and advertising revenue from local businesses and organizations. The mission of Hazelwood Initiative, as a community-based development corporation, is to build a stronger Hazelwood through inclusive community development. Sonya Tilghman, Executive Director of Hazelwood Initiative, Inc. (she/her) Juliet Martinez, Managing Editor of The Homepage (they/them) Sarah Kanar, Layout and Design of The Homepage(she/her)

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