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Look on the bright side.

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Look on the bright side. It may help your heart!

The Pollyannas of the world may be more cheerful than the curmudgeons, but are they healthier? They might be. Maintaining a positive attitude—or adopting one—may lead to better heart health, suggests a new analysis of studies. Researchers looked at the links between psychological well-being and behaviors related to heart health, like exercise and eating habits, along with risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Optimists and those with better psychological well-being fared better on the lifestyle front: they were less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise and eat a nourishing diet (specifically, more vegetables and fruit and less processed meat and sweets). Optimism has also been linked to a lower risk of dying from heart disease. Different ways of responding to stress may help to explain the connection between attitude and heart health. People with positive attitudes tend to problem-solve and strategize to manage stressors, while others may resort to harmful habits like drinking alcohol or smoking in order to cope. Now the big question: can you really change your attitude? In a word, absolutely! New tools can help. Mindfulness-meditation programs, shown to improve habits and quality of life, can help you gain perspective on negative thoughts and become less reactive to stress. Tai chi and yoga can also help you manage stress and improve your health. Pick a stress-reduction practice and give it a go. If all the glasses around you start looking half full, you’ll know you’re on the right track!