Optimism cuts the risk of coronary heart disease by half, claimed a collective of studies over a 30-year period. Just what you pessimists wanted to hear, right? Well, knock it off. That’s the attitude that’ll strike you down!
Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researcher Laura Kubzansky found that “emotional vitality” reduced the risk of heart disease, substantially more than if you simply abstained from smoking and living dangerously. “Research suggests that certain personal attributes — whether inborn or shaped by positive life circumstances — help some people avoid or healthfully manage diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and depression. These include:
- Emotional vitality: a sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness, engagement;
- Optimism: the perspective that good things will happen, and that one’s actions account for the good things that occur;
- Supportive networks of family and friends;
- Being good at “self-regulation,” i.e. bouncing back from stressful challenges and knowing that things will eventually look up again; choosing healthy behaviors such as physical activity and eating well; and avoiding risky behaviors such as unsafe sex (and) drinking.”
To me, the mind body connection has been obvious for years and years. I see it in almost every body I touch professionally (and non-professionally). Not only trauma but everyday stress and “bummer” attitudes collect between the shoulders, neck and rest of the body. However, it’s more than just being happy-go-lucky and trying to not think bad thoughts.
The key is to actually DO something. As I like to say, “not doing something wrong” is not making things right, within your own head and in personal relationships. It means working at it. Like flossing. Mental floss, if you will. Whether you like people or not, whether you have a mate or not, children or not, you must at least live with yourself. How you choose to frame that relationship-of-one is in your hands. If you’re stuck on what-the-world-is-doing-to-you, that’s exactly what you will experience.
Eric Rimm, HSPH associate professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Nutrition and director of the program in cardiovascular epidemiology, said, “70 to 80 percent of heart attacks in this country occur not because of genetics nor through some mysterious causative factors. It’s through lifestyle choices people make: diet, smoking, exercise. Why are people choosing to do these things? Does mood come into play?” How do you change that outlook? The usual methods and philosophies: exercise, meditate, volunteer (find your purpose), create changes in some ways. Massage, hypnosis, good diet. The list goes on. Find the one that embraces you most strongly.
I use a method called Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT, sometimes referred to as “tapping”) for myself and others to “move stuck energy.” Not everyone can just “think happy thoughts.” Tapping acknowledges, examines, accepts what the negatives are in your life now or in the past and helps release them. One then moves on to allow a positive shift in their perspective.
As Kubzansky said, “Not everyone lives in an environment where you can turn off worry. When you take this research out of the social context, it has the potential to be a slippery slope for victim blaming.” What she does offer is, find a way to be in the moment, something, anything, that you can get lost in, absorbed in.
She plays piano. “I’m not worrying or thinking or trying to work out a problem. I’m just doing this thing that takes all my attention . Everyone needs to to find a restorative state that allows them to put down their burdens.”