There is a proverb that says “a merry heart does good like a medicine.” While being happy certainly improves ones disposition (and that of those around you!), can your outlook on life, particularly a positive outlook, actually impact and improve your heart health?
According to a first-of-a-kind research study conducted at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, the answer is a resounding yes! The Columbia University study is unique compared to other studies which focus on factors that impact heart health because this study focused solely on how a having a positive outlook, as opposed to mood, depression or other more negative emotions, may impact your heart health.
During the course of the 10-year study, the Columbia University researchers followed a group of 1,739 participants. A large number of participants were located in the Nova Scotia area of Canada. Only persons without a known history of heart disease were accepted into the study. Periodically throughout the course of the study, participants were interviewed by nurses regarding various aspects about their day to day lives such as stress, work, family, problems and of course, how happy or joyful they felt that they were. Interviews were videotaped and the responses later evaluated by a trained staff of researchers who scored the responses on a happiness scale of one to five that measured the amount of “positive affect” in the life of each participant. Positive affect is the term used to describe the positive emotions – joy, happiness, enjoyment, satisfaction – we experience in our lives. Participants who scored a five were viewed as possessing the greatest amount of positive affect or happiness and positive outlook in their lives. A score of one indicated very little or no positive affect exhibited.
The researchers found that those participants who had the highest levels of positive affect over the course of the study had a significantly lower risk of developing heart disease. A positive outlook lowered the risk of heart disease by a whopping 22 percent!