Your Body

V-Day without a Valentine, Natural Sweetness, Altruism and More

(Photo by Brian Jackson/Thinkstock)

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY TO ME!

Between school, technique classes, rehearsals and homework, you barely have enough time to hang out with friends, let alone a boyfriend. But when February 14 rolls around—with its abundance of candy hearts, flowers and teddy bears—it’s natural to find yourself longing for a valentine. Luckily, there’s a simple solution: Be your own valentine! Dr. Linda Hamilton, a performance psychologist who’s a wellness consultant with New York City Ballet, offers tips on how to transform this over-played holiday into a celebration of you.

Keep things in perspective. First things first: You have to get over the hype. Valentine’s Day is just that: a day. “Remember that having a boyfriend isn’t everything,” says Hamilton. “A lot of your friends may not be emotionally ready for their relationships yet.”

Make it fun. Just because you don’t have a significant other doesn’t mean you have to spend Valentine’s Day alone. Get together with your single friends and throw a dance party or watch a movie. “Avoid gushy romantic movies and opt for a fun, scary one,” Hamilton says.

Treat yourself. Schedule a relaxing manicure, or purchase a teddy bear with a heart on its belly. It may feel strange at first, but Hamilton says, “It’s OK to do that for yourself.”

Remember how fortunate you are. You probably have a lot of love in your life, even if it’s not the kind of love traditionally associated with Valentine’s Day. Take a moment to appreciate your friends and family, and to remember those who are less fortunate.

SUGAR, SPICE AND EVERYTHING NICE

When you’re craving something sweet, artificial sweetener may seem like a great option—all the deliciousness without all the calories. But research suggests artificial sweetener can actually amplify your craving: When your body wants sugar, it wants the real deal. Here are a few ways to satisfy your sweet tooth naturally, without giving yourself a sugar rush.

(L to R: Wavebreakmedia/Thinkstock, Daniel Padavona/Thinkstock, RVLSOFT/Thinkstock)

1. Get fruity. The natural sugars in fruit will give you the sweet taste you crave without the concentrated jolt of sugar that fruit-flavored candy provides.

2. Get grillin’. Grilling is a great way to bring out the natural sweetness in food. You’ll find that even some veggies—like onions and tomatoes—start tasting sweet once they’re caramelized on the grill. Juicy grilled fruit is an especially sweet treat.

3. Get spicy. Think about the spices we associate with dessert: cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves. While these spices contain no sweetness on their own, they can help bring out the natural sweetness in foods like plain yogurt, sweet potatoes and fruit.

(Photo by Elina Manninen/Thinkstock)

DID YOU KNOW?

Drinking hot cocoa is good for brain health. According to a recent study by neurologists at Harvard Medical School, flavonol-rich cocoa powder may assist in a process called neurovascular coupling—basically, the way blood gets to the areas of the brain we’re using. Efficient blood flow in the brain helps protect our memories. So go ahead and cuddle up by the fire with a mug of hot cocoa!

 

(Photo by Margouillatphotos/Thinkstock)

 

According to the Mental Health Foundation, altruism—helping others—is a great way to boost self-esteem. Consider taking time on Valentine’s Day to volunteer, visit a grandparent or make valentines for your friends.

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