50% Risk Reduction in Cardiovascular Disease without dieting or exercise
A scientific study from Harvard concludes positive emotions, optimism and happiness, reduce the risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease by 50%!
This is not just one study, this is what is called a meta-analysis, which is the term scientists use to describe a study of studies. The researchers compiled data from 200 separate studies. This finding is much more reliable than the result of just one study. In order to say that positive emotions, optimism, and happiness reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 50% the evidence had to be consistent and clear.
An earlier study, often referred to as the Nun study because It studied Nuns throughout their lives, found that positive emotions equated to about 10 extra years of life. While that is astounding and Is more than the typical difference associated with smoking or not, to me the best part of that study was that not only was life longer when positive emotions were common, the debilitating end of life diseases showed up closer to death so there were not only more years but much more quality years. The Nun Study showed positivity led to 18 healthier years of life. Or, stated another way, 8 fewer years living with debilitating illnesses.
The Nun study is especially significant because all the participants lived similar lives so things associated with lifestyle could be ruled out as causative. The days of viewing happiness as “fluffy” or “nice to have” are long over for those who are aware of the current research findings.
We are not encouraging you to ignore other factors. Maintaining a healthy body through good nutrition, activity, adequate sleep, and good choices about things smoking, drinking, and drugs will always be beneficial to you.
There is more good news. The same Harvard meta-analysis found that individuals with more positive emotions tended to make better lifestyle choices about nutrition, adequate sleep, and exercising. Other studies have shown that positive emotions can have a beneficial impact on everything from substances abuse, crime, teen pregnancy, and the health of unborn children.
The many benefits of positivity are expanding rapidly as many branches of science explore this area. The benefits fill complete volumes. As wonderful as the following statement sounds, it does not reflect all the proven benefits of increased positivity.
When you are happy, you are at your best. You are in the best health. You are in the best mood. You are able to think with greater clarity. You are able to see solutions to problems far more readily. You need less from others (pumping up, assistance of all types, etc.). You contribute more by being happy so being happy is a priority for you. When you are happy, you contribute to others by inspiring them to happiness. You contribute to others because when you feel great you want to help others feel just as wonderful. Sometimes, when someone feels rotten it makes them feel better to see someone else feel rotten too or to see someone who is even worse off than they are. When you are happy, it lifts you even higher to help others up and you gain no happiness or relief from their not being in a good place. Minding your happiness is minding your health because when you are happy you will be inclined to make good decisions about your diet, exercise, and other habits. Happiness reduces the stress on your body and enables it to more easily maintain or regain its health. Your happiness is good for you and good for the world. Happiness is the path to peace. Telling someone to be more positive is a waste of words if you do not teach them how.
Changing from pessimistic to more optimistic has been proven possible and sustainable but it requires skills. The root cause of happiness is also the root of many other aspects of life. When increasing happiness is done with a root cause understanding other areas improve as well. These include optimism, emotional intelligence, resilience, self-mastery, adaptability, creativity, cognitive ability, well-being, altruism, and relationships of all types.
Today’s happiness increasing tip.
Make a decision to look for something to appreciate every day. Before your evening meal, think about what you decided to appreciate that day. What you appreciate can be as simple as the air you breathe, family to love, friends who care, or the ability to enjoy something in the future. It can be as complex as solving the Kobayashi Maru. You choose. The important aspect is to find something to appreciate each day and spend time in a state of appreciation. Making this a daily family practice is even more powerful.
Boehm, J. K. (2012, July). The heart’s content: The association between positive psychological well-being and cardiovascular health. Psychological Bulletin, Epub April 2012, 138(4):655-91 . Danner, D. D. (2001). Positive Emotions in Early Life and Longevity. Findings from the Nun Study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, No. 5.804-813.