An Optimistic Heart is a Healthier Heart
Your heart is one hard-working machine. Its beat goes on about 100,000 times per day, pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood through your body. This is why keeping it healthy is so important.
Much research has shown that optimism is related to longevity, not to mention the physical and mental wellbeing benefits, opposed to pessimism.
Although these two words are often used interchangeably, there is a vital distinction between them: Happiness is an emotion, a feeling. Optimism is a positive outlook for the future.
Those whose glasses are half-full are reportedly twice as likely to have healthy hearts, and those that are more optimistic have been found to have better blood sugar and cholesterol levels than their more negative counterparts. Optimism also correlated with higher levels of physical activity, healthier body mass indexes and lower rates of smoking.
We all know that life isn't always sunshine and roses. People do need to express negative feelings when they have them; they just need to learn to do so without having it take over their lives. The key: keeping perspective, by recognizing the pros and cons inherent in most challenges. Unfortunately, pessimists tend to lose that perspective. It becomes a habit for them to see only the downsides.
At this point, the research can only show a correlation, but it does suggest that our perspective can have a snowball effect that can alter our everyday life. And with that idea, I would accentuate the good news that it's certainly the case that even if you're not born with a big dose of optimism, it is something you can train yourself to adopt.
Science can't yet explain why optimism is linked with better health. Here are some possible explanations:
- • People who are healthy are likely to have a brighter outlook than people who are ill. So optimism could be the result of good health instead of the other way around.
- • Perhaps optimists enjoy better health and longer lives than pessimists because they have healthier habits, stronger social support networks and better medical care. Some studies report that optimists are less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise than pessimists. They also are more likely to live with a spouse and follow medical advice, the studies found.
- • Optimism may have biological benefits that improve health. Some studies show optimistic people tend to have lower levels of stress hormones and less inflammation. Their immune systems also may work better.
Change for the Better
Positive or negative attitudes are formed over a lifetime. Is it possible to change them? Admittedly, it's a challenge. You cannot simply will yourself to have a positive attitude.
Change is possible, though, if you directly confront the causes of a downbeat attitude. Sometimes feeling negative is caused by depression, anxiety or stress. These problems can often be solved, or at least improved, through treatment with counseling, talk therapy, medicine or all of these.
Current research demonstrates that omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent and reduce plaque formation inside arteries, lower harmful cholesterol (LDL) and triglyceride levels, enhance the protective effects of cholesterol (HDL), decrease inflammation, and lessen the likelihood of forming a clot. Omega-3's are superior to Omega-6 and Omega-9's because they feed the anti-inflammatory cascade, where as the others can actually contribute to inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in wild Alaskan salmon, grass-fed beef, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, fish oil and cod liver oil.
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