The New Year is right around the corner, and for many people that means a new round of resolutions. Many resolutions will soon be broken. But this year, try one resolution that should be easy to life with, to be more optimistic. That's because optimism is the key to good health and a healthy heart.
Here's Just How Powerful Optimism Can Be for a Healthy Heart
Several years ago at a seminar where I lectured, I was uplifted to a state of awe by the collective appearance of the audience. This group of more than 200 mostly senior citizens radiated health, vigor, and an absolutely contagious positivity.
Many had significant medical problems. Yet, what a difference between them and most people their age. Here were individuals hungry for knowledge, even down to the nitty-gritty of how many milligrams of vitamin X to take and when. Here were people learning how to be healthier so they could grab more of life, and not just passively waiting for the next prescription from their doctors.
One gentleman got up to the microphone and said he was 86, had aortic dysfunction, shortness of breath, arrhythmia, and was somewhat hard of hearing. He had had a quadruple bypass and a knee replacement.
"I want to make plans for the next 30 years," he said. "My cup is half full and I want to make it fuller."
"Wow!" I thought. "Now that’s a healing attitude." Somebody else in his shoes would think their cup was half-empty and draining. But not him—and not the others in that room of exceptional people.
I was reminded of a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that made national headlines several years ago. Researchers analyzed the medical histories and length of life of some 200 nuns who had compiled handwritten autobiographies during the 1930s, when they were in their early 20s.
Positive Emotions and Optimism Can Actually Extend Your Life
A careful search for such key words as "happy," "joy," "love," "hopeful," and "contentment" revealed that the nuns who expressed more positive emotions lived as much as 10 years longer than those expressing fewer positive emotions. The findings are in keeping with other studies showing that people who are more positive seem to live longer than those who are more pessimistic.
When misfortune or disease strikes, we make a conscious choice. Some people develop a "poor me" attitude and turn into victims. Others see it in terms of spiritual or emotional growth.
Referring to their illnesses, patients have told me, "God placed it in my path to make me more humble," or "to get out of a job I disliked," or "to stop me in my tracks and mend a relationship." My most successful patients are people like the 86-year-old subscriber with a positive attitude; that truly is the key to a healthy heart.
After observing thousands of patients, I can assure you that attitude is the key to a healthy life, and a healthy heart. You can choose to be depressed and live with the biochemistry that depression creates in your body, or choose to be optimistic, find purpose in life, and live with the biochemistry that optimism creates.
Now it's your turn: Do you find that optimism is the key to good health, and a healthy heart?