Optimism and Your Heart
Take a few seconds to close your eyes and imagine that you are putting a slice of lemon into your mouth and chewing on it. Did your mouth water? This is just one example of how the mind can affect the body – simply thinking about something can trigger a physical reaction. If your body reacts just thinking about chomping on a lemon imagine what happens when you experience chronic, negative emotions. It’s time for a heart to heart. Did you know that anger can increase a man’s risk of coronary heart disease? Specifically, full-blown, outward and uncontrollable expressions of anger, aka “losing it” put men at risk.
If you are a woman, you don’t get off the heart hook. The risk for women is more subtle, indirect expression of antagonism. Hostility, defined as an attitude of ill will and a negative evaluation of people and events is another set of emotions that puts us at risk for heart disease.
Pessimism is also associated with heart health. People who constantly blame themselves for the things that go wrong and believe that nothing good will come their way are more likely to develop heart disease that people with a positive attitude. The mind set of pessimism is linked with higher levels of anger, anxiety and depression which are other risk factors implicated in heart disease.
Take heart! There is good news. Positive emotions like optimism may be a psychological vaccination against heart disease. Studies show that optimistic men were half as likely as pessimistic men to develop heart disease. Now that’s a lottery with good odds!
Developing a positive attitude does not mean that you can forsake all of the other methods of staying heart healthy: nutrition, exercise, no smoking – you know the drill.
The other piece of good news is that optimism can be learned and you can have a change of heart. It is a matter of replacing your negative thoughts and evaluations with positive ones. Start by choosing a chronic negative thought that runs around like a manic hamster in your head. First write down that negative thought and then write down the opposite. Learn your positive thought by heart and repeat it over and over. Don’t worry about not believing what you are saying. Just focus on the positive thought and it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I trust that you will take to heart that being optimistic is good for you. Wishing you an optimistic attitude and a healthy heart.