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Why To Be An Optimist Is Good For Your Heart



People who view life from a positive point of view are much more powerful in avoiding death from any kind of cardiovascular risk than pessimistic people, according to a new meta-analysis of nearly 300,000 people published on Friday in the medical journal JAMA.

"We observed that the optimist is about 35% less likely to have major heart complications, such as heart death, stroke, or heart attack, than the pessimists in each of these studies," says cardiologist Dr. Alan Rozanski. professor of medicine at the Icahn Medical School in Mount Sinai, who is the lead author of the study.

In fact, the more positive a person is, the greater the protection against heart attacks, stroke and any cause of death, said Rozanski, who is also the chief academic director of the cardiology department at Mount Sinai St. Luke.

"The more pessimistic (the person was), the worse the result," he added.

It's not just your heart that is protected from a positive perspective. Previous research has found a direct link between optimism and other health benefits such as healthier eating and exercise behavior, a stronger immune system and better lung function.

Traits of optimists

Why would this be true? Optimists tend to have better health habits, Rozanski said. They are more likely to exercise, have a better diet, and are less likely to smoke.

"Optimists also tend to have better coping skills and are better at problem solving," he continued. "They are better at what we call proactive problem solving or anticipation, and then actively take steps to fix them."

But do not confuse optimism with happiness, because there is a key difference.

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"Happiness is emotion. It's transient, "said Rozanski. "People may have more moments of happiness than others … but it's just a description of feeling.

Optimism, however, is thinking," says Rozanski.

"That's how you look at the world," he says. "Optimists are people who expect good things to happen to them, and pessimists are those who expect bad things to happen to them. "

In other words, happiness may come and go, but optimism is a trait of character – this one. which can be measured fairly accurately by a series of statements s called the "life orientation test."

The test includes sayings like, "I am a believer in the idea that 'every cloud has a silver lining,'" and "If something can go wrong for me, it will happen." You evaluate the statements on a scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree and the results can be added to determine your level of optimism or pessimism.

Training optimism

What if you take the test and find yourself pessimistic? Studies show that you can actually learn to be a positive person.

"People can change their thinking patterns, but like everything else, this is a muscle that needs to be developed," Rozanski said.

Using direct measures of brain function and structure, one study found that it took only 30 minutes a day to meditate for two weeks to produce a measurable change in the brain.
"When these types of mental exercises are taught to people, it actually changes the function and structure of their brain in ways that we believe support this kind of positive qualities," says neurologist Richard Davidson, professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and founder and director of the Center for Common Sense.
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One of the most effective ways to increase optimism, according to a meta-analysis of existing research, is called the "Best Possible I" method, where you imagine or think of yourself in a future where you have achieved all your life goals and all your problems have been resolved.

Another technique is to practice gratitude. Just taking a few minutes each day to record what makes you grateful can enhance your life prospects. And while you're at it, list the positive experiences you have had that day that can also increase your optimism.

"Finally, we know that cognitive behavioral therapies are very effective treatments for depression; pessimism is on the way to depression, "Rozanski said. "So you can apply the same principles as we do in depression, like paraphrasing. You learn that there is an alternative way to think or rephrase negative thoughts and thus make great progress with a pessimist."


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