Being an optimist isn’t all that easy at times, but it’s apparently worth it. Optimism has been shown to provide favorable physical health outcomes and greater success in work, school, and relationships.
And now, a meta-analysis research study shows a positive outlook can help your heart:
Analysis of the 10 studies that looked at heart disease, which pooled data on 209,436 people, found that compared with pessimists, people with the most optimistic outlook had a 35 percent lower risk for cardiovascular events.
The studies reviewed had an average of 14-years of follow-up, and controlled for various health and behavioral characteristics, including typical cardiovascular disease risk factors. So, score major longevity points for those with a sunny disposition.
Are optimists just healthier?
Is it optimism that leads to health, or do optimistic people just take better care of themselves? Turns out it’s both:
“It seems optimists have better health behaviors,” said the lead author, Dr. Alan Rozanski, a professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “They’re more likely to exercise and to have better diet. And there is evidence of direct biological effects — they have less inflammation and fewer metabolic abnormalities.”
Which brings us to the next question — can you learn to become more optimistic? If you currently have trouble finding the silver lining, you can be (ahem) optimistic about your ability to change.
How to prime a positive outlook
As with many things, optimism comes down to how we perceive and respond to events and challenges in our lives. That means we can shift our attitude in a more optimistic direction, even if we’re naturally more on the gloomy side.
Techniques that work include reframing stressors, practicing self-compassion, letting go by stopping rumination about past missteps, and avoiding comparing ourselves with others. Plus, expressing gratitude for what you have and the life you lead helps immensely (I know it has for me).
Perhaps most of all, keep a sense of humor. Life can be absurd, I know … so maybe laugh instead of cry. But not like a clown — that’s just creepy.