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14 inspiring quotes about health from Black culture

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Positive statements that reflect your values and vision can help you reach your health goals by helping you stick to your plan. For example, several studies show affirmations help change your brain’s response to health messages in a positive way.

We’ve put together a collection of wise words from voices such as Tina Turner, Mahershala Ali, and other Black Americans to celebrate Black History Month. So put science to work: When you find something here that inspires you, embrace it—you can even turn it into an affirmation!

ON MEDITATION & MINDFULNESS

Prayer, meditation, and mindfulness helps many people center themselves, manage stress, and have peace. Among Black Americans, 8 in 10 pray at least a few times a month, according to the Pew Research Center, and 78 percent believe prayer can heal physical illness. While science is still exploring the connections between health, meditation, and prayer to understand exactly how it works, it is true these practices have some health benefits: Meditation has been shown to reduce blood pressure, stress, anxiety, pain, and boost the immune system. Prayer is a specific type of meditation that has the same benefits, according to research.

“My best health habit is probably prayer and meditation, which I do every single day. It calms me and gives me the confidence that I need to do my work while putting my mind at ease. And it's portable. I take it everywhere."—Mahershala Ali, actor

“What excites me is just taking some time to breathe in life.”—Viola Davis, actress

“Success? I don’t know what that word means. I’m happy. But success, that goes back to what in somebody’s eyes success means. For me, success is inner peace. That’s a good day for me.” —Denzel Washington, actor

ON HAPPINESS

Happiness and health support each other in ways scientists don’t yet fully understand, but what is true is that happiness improves longevity, heart health, disease, and disability, according to the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. In one study, happiness seemed to be working on a cellular level to help people fight disease.

“I think health has a lot to do with happiness. When you're healthy, you think more clearly, and you can work on yourself. But it's not about extremes. I eat everything I ever ate, just not too often.”—Tina Turner, musician

“Joy is a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace—a connection to what matters.”—Oprah Winfrey, television producer

ON SELF-LOVE

Self-love is the act of appreciating yourself in ways that benefit your physical and emotional health, according to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. At the other end of the spectrum is shame, which is so powerful that researchers in England and Ireland believe it is a determinant of health. For marginalized people, self-love often involves overcoming society’s negative messages about you and people like you. Maybe that’s why activist Audre Lorde considered self-love and care an act of resistance.  

“When women take care of their health, they become their own best friend.”—Maya Angelou, poet and civil rights activist 

“When you take care of yourself, you’re a better person for others. When you feel good about yourself, you treat others better.”—Solange Knowles, actress and musician

“I had to examine, in my dreams as well as in my immune-function tests, the devastating effects of overextension. Overextending myself is not stretching myself. I had to accept how difficult it is to monitor the difference. Necessary for me as cutting down on sugar. Crucial. Physically. Psychically. Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”—Audre Lorde, poet, feminist, activist

ON CONFIDENCE AND HEALTH

Confidence not only helps you hold your head high in the world—it makes a huge difference in how you manage your health. People who feel confident that they can control and measure their conditions have better outcomes—in fact, according to a study published in the journal American Family Practice, health confidence is a critical measurement of success. Health confidence requires information about your conditions and the resources to do necessary self-care—and mindset.

“If we focus on our health, including our inner health, our self-esteem, and how we look at ourselves and our confidence level, we’ll tend to be healthier people anyway; we’ll tend to make better choices for our lives, for our bodies, we’ll always be trying to learn more, and get better as time goes on.”—Queen Latifah, actress and musician

"By speaking of ourselves in a positive and affirmative fashion and finding ways to eradicate self-hate, by speaking kindly about ourselves and those around us, we can foster a sense of love and compassion powerful enough to restructure our society’s entire perspective of 'body love.'"—Jessamyn Stanley, yoga instructor

ON SOCIAL HEALTH

Years of research shows that among Black Americans, having great social connections can support good mental and physical health. (A truth we’ve all felt since the pandemic.) In a study based in Atlanta, Black adults who spent time with their neighbors had better cardiovascular health than those who didn’t, according to the American Heart Association. Perhaps that’s why a healthy social life ranks high for these famous Americans—and why it might inspire you to continue finding safe ways to spend time with your friends and family. 

“Find people that bring you joy and make time to be with them... it’s more important than we think.”—Alicia Keys, musician 

“Rarely, if ever, are any of us healed in isolation. Healing is an act of communion.”—Bell Hooks, poet and activist

ON MOVEMENT AND ACTIVITY

While we all know the importance of movement when it comes to caring for your body, people from marginalized communities often struggle to find a space that’s inclusive so they feel both safe and welcome. Some celebrities muster their self-determination to prioritize movement. Others are leading by example and encouraging Black Americans to explore all kinds of activity, including the outdoors. Their wisdom and experiences are inspiring to us all.

“Though we live in a nation whose founding principle is freedom, far too many of us deprive ourselves of the opportunity to get beyond our daily urban routine to gaze upon the grandeur of the world.”—James Edward Mills, author, The Adventure Gap

“Don’t take your health for granted. Don’t take your body for granted. Do something today that communicates to your body that you desire to care for it. Tomorrow is not promised.”—Jada Pinkett Smith, actress

Have you checked in with your coach today? Take some time to log your meals, activity, and share photos, so they can help you track your progress! 

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