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Being Optimistic Is a Heart Healthy Choice

By , January 11th, 2015 | 7 Comments »

Study: being optimistic is good for your heart
Being a pessimist could be bad for your heart. A new study conducted by the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), led by Rosalba Hernandez, analyzed the responses of 5,100 adults about their mental health. The subjects were between the ages of 45 and 84 and responded about their optimism and physical health. The answers were self-reported by the respondents.

There were seven American Heart Association (AHA) metrics used to classify the participants’ heart health. These included blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels, dietary intake, physical activity and tobacco use. Using these metrics, researches gave participants a score of 0 (poor), 1 (intermediate) or 2 (ideal) for each of the seven health metrics. The participants’ health scores could range from 0 (poor) to 14 (great) points.

Analysis of the data concluded optimistic survey participants had better cardiovascular health. Those who were optimistic has a 50% greater chance of having a health score in the intermediate range than their pessimistic counterparts. They also had a 76% better chance of having a score in the ideal range. The data also showed those who were optimists were more physically active, had a healthier body mass index, had better levels of blood sugars, and better total levels of cholesterol.

This benefit of optimism didn’t waver due to socio-demographic characteristics that could potentially skew the data. Even when factors such as age, education, ethnicity and income were controlled, optimistic participants were two times as likely to have ideal cardiovascular health.

The good news is that you aren’t born an optimistic or pessimistic person. There are steps you can take to be more positive in your life. According to the Mayo Clinic being positive has the benefits of:

  • A longer lifespan
  • Less depression
  • Less life distress
  • More resistance to viruses, such as the common cold
  • Overall, better psychological and physical well-being
  • Less cardiovascular disease
  • Better stress coping skills

There are also steps you can take to make yourself a more positive person. One important step you can take is to learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. While the steps to do this are pretty simple and straightforward, it takes time and practice to create a new habit, so results won’t be instantaneous. Here are some of the steps you’ll need to take to become more positive.

Identify areas in your life that need to change

If you want to be more optimistic yourself, you need to be more positive in the way you think. Take some time to identify areas of your life where you think pessimistically rather than optimistically. This can be any part of your life from attitudes about yourself to work. Once you have identified an area where you have a pessimistic view, work on taking small steps to frame the situation in a more positive way.

Begin Daily Checks

During the day, take the time to evaluate how you’re thinking about and reacting to things happening around you. When you catch yourself framing things negatively, make an attempt to figure out a way to frame them in a more positive way.

Embrace Humor

Open yourself to finding humor in the things around you. It’s good to smile or laugh even when you find yourself in a difficult or stressful situation. Look for the humor in the small, everyday happenings, and expand that to other areas of your life. The more you’re able to laugh at life, the less pessimistic things seem.

Become Healthier

The healthier you are, the less stress you will have in many areas of your life. Being healthy and having strength can be a vital component in seeing things positively rather than negatively. Choose to live a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, good eating habits and ways to reduce stress. Choosing to live healthier can have a huge impact on the way you view many of the things around you.

Evaluate Your Friend

While you take a look at yourself, also look at those you surround you. It’s difficult to remain positive if all the people in your life are negative. Choosing friends who have an optimistic outlook on life can reinforce the optimism you want to have, and give you positive feedback on your quest to be more optimistic.

Treat Yourself with Respect

Learn to treat yourself the way you would treat others that you highly respect. If you wouldn’t make a mean or negative comment to the person you respect most, you shouldn’t make that same comment about yourself. When you have negative thoughts (and you will), instead of accepting it as truth, take the time to evaluate it and find the positive within it.

Making these changes will take time and effort on your part, but the more you do them, the easier they become. Once you have turned them into habits and the default way you think about situations in your life, you’ll see that the pessimistic views you held before were simply a way you chose to look at the world.

(Photo courtesy of fauxto_digit)

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  • jen says:

    It’s so important to get non positive people out of your life. A friend isn’t really a friend if all they ever do is complain about everything in life. Get those people out of your life and you’ll instantly be happier.

  • Roberto says:

    Optimism isn’t a “choice,” it’s a side affect of marginal intelligence and/or willful ignorance.

  • Carry says:

    I think with optimism the first step is always with yourself. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s damn difficult. Especially when you don’t have confidence with who you are and what you’re doing. I know because I was once there. it sucks being there, but it’s great when you can see things in a positive way rather than everything being bad.

  • Thales says:

    “The data also showed those who were optimists were more physically active, had a healthier body mass index, had better levels of blood sugars, and better total levels of cholesterol.”

    Or maybe they were more physically active and therefore had a healthier BMI, better blood glucose level and have better cholesterol levels because they are physically fit.

    Given that exercise and higher physical activity levels have been correlated with those positive health effects that seems more likely.

    Oh… and exercise has also been shown to increase endorphin levels and also reduce stress, decrease feelings of anxiety/depression, boost self-esteem and more.

    The argument could be made that exercise could account for optimistic moods and that list of health benefits.

  • Jeff L says:

    This study seems to confuse cause and effect. People who have healthy lifestyles will feel better about themselves than people who do not, and people who feel good about themselves are usually optimists.

    I’m a mathematician who specializes in obesity, and I cannot trust the results of this study. Apparently it gives equal weight to a person’s tobacco use and his or her BMI. Why not give equal weight to heroin use and someone’s astrological sign? Both make comparisons between a deadly poison and unscientific witchcraft.

    The BMI can describe large groups of people, but it cannot describe the health of an individual.

  • captainhurt says:

    rubbish story and rubbish source. oh the state of journalism these days!
    confusing cause and effect. the whole piece then goes off on a tangent with the completely wrong assumption.

    people in lesser health causes a quantity of pessimism.

    google “pessimists live longer”…then you’ll see some real study data OVER TIME and it even makes perfect sense.

  • Ralph Morton says:

    For a number of years I have been very positive and now that I am suffering with many blockages in the arteries around my heart and cancer in my bladder I am still using the benefits of positive thinking.

    I cannot have the cancer removed until I have the blockages corrected and am awaiting the time I can go into surgery.

    Ralph Morton


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