Heart Health

How positive psychology can help you cultivate better heart health

Expressing gratitude, focusing on your strengths, and performing kind acts may help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

illustration of a chart showing moods in the form of a semicircle with colored sections from red to green and face icons representing differnt moods

Conversations about heart disease and mental health often dwell on the overlap between cardiovascular problems and negative emotions. It makes sense: People with depression face a heightened risk of heart problems. Also, it's common — and understandable — to feel moody, distressed, or irritable after a heart attack.

Increasingly, however, mental health experts are focusing on how optimism and other positive emotions can guard against serious heart-related events and death. Optimism is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a 2022 review in The American Journal of Medicine that pooled findings from nearly 182,000 people from six separate studies. People who are happier or more optimistic may be more likely to exercise more, eat more healthfully, and sleep better, which might explain the link. But can people who aren't naturally cheerful actually improve their physical health by changing their mindset?

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About the Author

photo of Julie Corliss

Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Julie Corliss is the executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter. Before working at Harvard, she was a medical writer and editor at HealthNews, a consumer newsletter affiliated with The New England Journal of Medicine. She … See Full Bio
View all posts by Julie Corliss

About the Reviewer

photo of Christopher P. Cannon, MD

Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Christopher P. Cannon is editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter. He is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and senior physician in the Preventive Cardiology section of the Cardiovascular Division at … See Full Bio
View all posts by Christopher P. Cannon, MD

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As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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