February brings up love, hearts and caring for others. This month, we are encouraging readers to show love and respect in a health-promoting way — and to focus on yourself first. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to help anyone else for very long. Remember, showing love for one another goes beyond the month of February; it is an act of kindness that should be shown day to day, month to month and year to year.

Here are some ideas of ways you can begin to show care and love to yourself. Add your own ideas to this list.

• Appreciate your body for all that it has done for you — legs that help you get wherever you need to go, arms that hug and comfort a friend, hands that offer a gentle touch, lips that smile and eyes that see the beauty in the world.

• Just as a car needs regular maintenance, such as oil changes, to keep it running well, you need regular preventive health care visits with your physician, dentist and eye care professional. A team of health care providers can catch many problems at an early stage when treatment is easier, more successful and often less expensive.

• Get enough sleep. Many of us are over-committed, over-worked and over-scheduled and forget that we need rest. This is a true physiological need, not a luxury. Lack of sleep makes us cranky and short tempered and can cause automobile and other accidents. Sleep deprivation puts stress on the immune system, making us more susceptible to viral infections, such as a cold and the flu.

• Wear comfortable, attractive clothes that fit well and look good on you. Shop at stores that carry the sizes and styles of clothes you enjoy wearing. Choose colors that are flattering to your hair and skin coloring, rather than for their “slimming” qualities.

• Stand tall, and be proud! You’ll feel more energetic, look more confident and suffer less from backaches.

• Eat well for pleasure and health. Eat consciously and attentively. Savor the sight, aroma and flavor of food by engaging all your senses as you eat. Respect your body by eating when hungry and stopping when full.

• Put movement into every day. Stretch those muscles, and work out the kinks that come with stress and tension. You’ll feel more energized and productive.

• Take time for yourself every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes. Try doing nothing — just sit with your eyes closed and relax. Or, talk to a friend, read the funnies, paint your toenails — do whatever feels good to you.

Some of these suggestions may seem a bit silly, but remember, life is about hidden treasures. What is silly to one is wise to another.

• Jennifer Russell is the county coordinator and a child and family development Extension agent for the Washington County MSU Extension Service Office in Greenville. You may contact her at 662-334-2669 or jtb20@msstate.edu.

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