Humans are directly affected by the quality of their thoughts. More and more scientific studies are, thus, focusing on the effects of positive thinking. Researchers from Penn State University have recently studied positivity in relation to heart disease: does it really impact positively on the heart’s health? Find more in the paper published in Psychosomatic Medicine.
Previous research has shown that the recovery and survival rates of patients having gone through heart bypass surgery seem to be better in those who adhere to positive thinking. Conversely, breeding negative thoughts affects the health adversely. The new research deals with a similar topic: how do patients with coronary heart disease (CHD) benefit from positive emotions?
A team led by researcher Nancy Sin followed over a thousand patients with CHD to analyse the benefits of positive feelings. The psychological health of the patients was evaluated twice (at the beginning of the study and after 5 years). The participants had to rate the extent of 10 positive emotions, such as “interested”, “proud”, “enthusiastic” and “inspired”. Other variables were recorded, like physical activity, medication, alcohol, cigarette, depressive symptoms, and their heart conditions.
The results show that participants with higher positive psychological states are more likely to indulge in physical activities, and they sleep better.
They also adhere to their heart medications, and are less likely to smoke.
No link was identified between positive emotions and alcohol consumption.
The researchers explain that positive emotions thus appear to be linked with various long-term healthy habits that are associated with lower risk of future heart problems and death.
Furthermore, increases in positive emotions during the 5 years following the start of the study are correlated with improvements in physical activity, sleep quality and medication adherence.
According to the researchers, positive people might be more motivated to stick to healthy behaviours and to persevere over time. They could also be better at managing stress and obstacles.
Nancy Sin hopes their findings will lead to more research on interventions to improve health habits.