In 1995 researchers started following 1,739 healthy adults living in Nova Scotia, Canada, for 10 years to determine whether attitudes affected their health.
Known heart disease risk factors were calculated, and still researchers found that the happiest people were 22% less likely to develop heart disease over the 10 years of follow-up than people who were in the middle of the negative-positive emotion scale. This study involved 14,916 person-years of observation.
People with the most negative emotions had the highest risk for heart disease and people who scored highest for happiness had the lowest cardiac risks.
On a NONscientific note, when we’re happy, we tend to use expressions describing our heart–such as ‘my heart is full of love’, ‘I’m open-hearted’, or she’s a ‘big-hearted’ person, or my ‘heart is overflowing’. It makes sense to me that the heart is closely linked to happiness.
The researchers are theorizing that if they could make people happier (‘increase positive affect‘), they could decrease cardiac risk in a larger part of the population. My personal experience over 18 years of helping people to be happier, shows that when we decrease the number of limiting beliefs we live by, we are free of the pain they create in our lives. The result is that we feel happier …and often healthier.
Additional research is needed, to prove (not just to suggest) that heart disease prevention may be helped by experiencing positive feelings as well as reducing symptoms of depression. The findings also do not prove that happiness protects the heart. This will require rigorous clinical trials. I don’t usually wait for scientists to tell me what I already suspect is true! One way that happiness may protect the heart is because many happy people eat and sleep better.
Do you have a healthy heart because you have more positive emotions? Or cardiac risks from negative ones? What do you think?
You are welcome to reprint, copy, or distribute Lenora Boyle’s article, provided author credit is included.