Happy Thoughts Lead to a Healthy Heart (American Heart Month)

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There is a strong link between optimism, hope, and overall satisfaction with life and a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, people with the highest levels of optimism have twice the likelihood of having ideal heart health compared to their more pessimistic peers. Research has shown that individuals who are the most optimistic have lower blood glucose and total cholesterol levels when compared to less optimistic people.

Optimists are more likely to eat healthier, exercise more, sleep better, to have lower blood pressure and better lipid levels, and to manage their stress levels better.

Only about 25% of your level of optimism is genetic, which means that to some extent, you have control over 75%! Things that might improve levels of optimism for some people include:

  • Keeping a gratitude journal or just taking the time to be thankful on a daily basis.
  • Taking stock of the unique talents and positive attributes that you have and not thinking of success as stemming from “dumb luck” or “something anyone could do”.
  • Reminding yourself that things have turned out ok in the past, even when you felt certain that they would not.
  • Trying to distract yourself when you’re feeling negatively about a situation – taking the dog for a walk, exercising, cooking, or even reading an engrossing book or magazine will work.
  • If something goes wrong, not automatically assuming that it’s all your fault is practicing a skill that optimists share.
  • Surrounding yourself with uplifting and positive people can have a major impact on how you approach life.
  • Daydreaming and imagining yourself living the life that you most want can increase optimism.
  • Thinking about what you want to accomplish today, and expecting that you’ll be successful, can help you to enter the day from a positive place.
  • Reflecting on what went well today and what you learned before turning in for the night can help you to sleep better and to awaken feeling more optimistic the following day.