Advertisement

Is optimism good for my heart?

Carolyn  Thomas
Healthcare
Some research suggests that optimism is particularly important for women's heart health. And optimism’s negative sibling – pessimism – may lower our resistance to illness, increase our chances of heart disease and even shorten life. As Dr. Martin Seligman writes in his highly-recommended book, Learned Optimism:
When something bad happens to a pessimist, she’s likely to get into a sort of dark and hopeless mental muttering that has her thinking things like:  
“Why me? Ain’t it awful? It’s permanent and everything is ruined and it’s all their fault.”
But the optimist’s explanation?
“It was bad luck, I’ll be able to handle it, I learn from all my experiences.”
With this kind of reasoning, an optimist feels a greater sense of control over her future – and her health. This is particularly important for heart attack survivors, because we know that the body’s stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are particularly damaging to our delicate coronary arteries.
 
Optimism may in fact be good for your heart. A positive outlook appears to offer some protection against heart disease. A promising recent study showed that people with heart disease who had optimistic expectations about their recovery (despite how severe their illness was) were less likely to die over a 15-year period than patients with pessimistic expectations. If you can think positively, you may be able to improve your heart health, feel better, and live longer. 
The theory is that optimists have better coping strategies, such as following prescribed medical treatment plans more diligently. Pessimists have negative thoughts and experience stress, which has damaging effects on the body and can also prevent people from following through with their medical treatment plans and with healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising.
If you tend to be pessimistic, learning to see the “glass as half full” could be well worth the effort in terms of your heart health. A qualified medical professional such as a therapist can help you identify ways to foster and support a more optimistic outlook.

Continue Learning about Mental Health Basics

The One Exercise That Can Lift Your Spirits
The One Exercise That Can Lift Your Spirits
Humans have set some wacky—but impressive—weightlifting records: Most weight lifted using teeth? 620 pounds. Most weight lifted with the little finger...
Read More
What is counseling?
Raychelle C. Lohmann, MS, LPCRaychelle C. Lohmann, MS, LPC
Whether life’s thrown you a curve ball and you’re at your wits end, or your past is haunting you, on...
More Answers
What are affirmations?
Alice DomarAlice Domar
An affirmation is a simple statement that you repeat to yourself -- you say it over and over unt...
More Answers
What Is the Self and How Does It Affect the Way We Live?
What Is the Self and How Does It Affect the Way We Live?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.