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Positive Thinking for a Healthier Heart

January 05, 2018

A pessimistic outlook means you have more negative thoughts than positive ones. You're not as happy as people who see the glass as half full instead of half empty. But changing your mantra to “don’t worry, be happy” could actually be good for your health.

A recent study from Finland supports previous research that suggests pessimism may harm your heart and increase your risk of death from heart disease.

Look on the Bright Side of Health

Finnish researchers followed more than 2,800 people for 11 years, randomly selecting participants from both sexes in their 50s, 60s and 70s. They concluded that pessimism remained a significant risk factor for death from heart disease in both men and women. Surprisingly, this study did not find that optimism protects the heart.

This wasn’t the first study to look at how your outlook on life may impact heart health. Results of the Women’s Health Initiative released in 2009 found that pessimism raised the risk of heart disease, while optimism lowered the risk.

Accentuate the Positive

Scientists have long associated pessimism with disease, although reasons for the connection remain unclear. They have proposed the theories that:

  • Healthier people are naturally more optimistic.
  • Optimistic people have healthier lifestyles, stronger social networks and seek out better health care.
  • Cortisol, the so-called stress hormone, or other hormones may be involved.
  • Heredity may help connect a positive attitude with heart health.
Eliminate the Negative

Even with no shortage of research linking pessimism with poor health, not everyone is a believer. Psychology professor Julie Norem, Ph.D., at Wellesley College, looks on the bright side of pessimism and urges you to do so, too.

In her book, “The Positive Power of Negative Thinking,” Dr. Norem says if you make a habit of imagining reasonably possible negative outcomes, you may actually help manage your anxiety. That can better prepare you to cope with negative situations when they occur—because they will occur.

Whole-Body Happiness

Previous research shows that if you think positively you may also

  • Live longer
  • Be less depressed and stressed
  • Have a stronger immune system
  • Have better overall psychological and physical well-being

It seems that optimists accomplish more in many aspects of life, in school, career, leisure activities and relationships. Here's to your positive attitude and better heart health




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