Do you wake up each morning looking forward to the day ahead? Do you try to see the bright side of every situation?
If you said yes, then you're already on track toward a healthier heart.
A positive attitude is linked to better health — specifically, improved heart health. Optimistic people, especially older adults, tend to live longer, healthier lives and have fewer instances of cardiovascular illness.
However, positive attitudes don't just develop overnight. How can you and your loved ones start practicing positive thinking and gain a healthier heart? Here are some things to keep in mind.
What is Positive Thinking?
Positive thinking involves approaching life's challenges with a positive outlook, but it's more than slapping on a smile and looking on the bright side.
It's all about your mindset. Thinking positive entails avoiding the victim mindset and taking the bumps in your life in stride. It does not necessarily mean avoiding or ignoring the bad things that happen. Rather, it's about seeing the opportunities in difficulties, trying to see the best in other people, and looking at yourself in a positive light.
Accentuating the positive creates good things in your brain. When you're daydreaming, meditating or consciously practicing positive thinking, your brain creates alpha waves. (They can also be created by doing aerobic exercise.) And alpha waves, according to Psychology Today, boost creativity and reduce depression.
How to Practice Positivity
Some people are born positive thinkers, while others need more of a push.
Optimism doesn't mean ignoring life's curveballs. It means approaching them in a more positive and productive way. Here are four ways to incorporate positivity into your life:
- Identify negativity. Pinpoint areas of your life that you tend to think negatively about, such as work, relationships or chores. Focus on one area at a time and try to find something you like about each one.
- Remember to laugh. Allow yourself to smile or laugh at life's circumstances, particularly during challenging moments. Try to find the humour in everyday scenarios, and focus on laughing and smiling rather than stressing and complaining.
- Befriend positive people. Surround yourself with supportive, positive thinkers who encourage you. Misery loves company, so don't let yourself slip into a negative friend group.
- Be your own best friend. Many people are guilty of negative self-talk — the habit of criticising yourself or comparing yourself to others. Banish the harsh words swirling around your brain. Be kind to yourself, and you'll feel happier and healthier for it.
Staying Upbeat is Good for You
While positive thinking occurs in the mind, studies show optimism has a direct impact on your overall body's health and can prevent future health risks, too.
Emotional vitality — characterised by hopefulness, enthusiasm and emotional balance — is associated with a substantially reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. Johns Hopkins Medicine thinks that depression and heart health are related, and asserts that people who are depressed have a greater risk of heart attack. By increasing alpha waves, which reduce depression, positive thinking can indirectly benefit your heart health.
Researchers also suspect that positive thinking may also prevent your heart from the inflammatory damage of stress, Johns Hopkins Medicine reports. And a Duke University study found that positive thinking could benefit people with chronic angina.
In a study published in the International Journal of Indian Psychology, researchers studied optimism, life satisfaction, quality of life and the physical health of 50 women and 50 men. It showed that adults with greater optimism had a better chance of warding off cardiovascular disease compared to their pessimistic counterparts. Optimists also had better blood sugar and cholesterol levels than those with negative attitudes.
Being Positive Can Help You Feel More Beautiful and Confident
Women are at a greater risk for heart disease than men, mostly from the stress they face balancing hectic work schedules and raising a family, and the hormones associated with menopause. We know that being positive can help women strengthen their heart, but did you know it can help them feel more attractive, too?
In a survey of 1,000 Indian women conducted by the Philips Global Beauty Index, more than 96 percent claimed that a positive mindset defines their beauty. Additionally, 95 percent of those women said that physical fitness played a huge role in their confidence. Simply, exercise and positivity are a winning combination for looking and feeling great.
Opt for Optimism, Especially Older Adults
While everyone can improve their health through a positive attitude, older adults especially can benefit from thinking on the bright side. Optimism in seniors is associated with better health and fewer chronic illnesses.
In a study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers examined age differences and changes in optimism in 9,790 older adults over a four-year period. They found that increases in seniors' optimism levels were linked with improvements in self-rated health and fewer chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, coronary heart disease and stroke.
These findings are a good reason to ask your parents — and their parents, too — whether they see the glass as half-empty or half-full. If they need help changing their attitude, remember that practice makes perfect.
With a few simple changes, you can leave the land of negativity and help lead the path for your loved ones, too. Your heart will thank you for it.
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