Positive Psychology Archive


Overeating? Mindfulness exercises may help

It's possible to overeat and not even realize it until you've finished a meal and doing so does not mean you have an eating problem or disorder. Mindfulness exercises can help you slow down and enjoy eating, making it easier to avoid overeating.

Waiting for motivation to strike? Try rethinking that

We all know that motivation is key to accomplishing our goals, but even if you have a much-desired goal in mind, it's too easy for motivation to dissipate. Before setting a goal, it's critical to identify why it is important to you, to create a detailed plan that outlines how you will achieve it, and to make a to-do list so you can track your progress.

Health and happiness go hand in hand

People who describe themselves as happy tend to have fewer health problems, a lower risk of depression, and longer lives. Research suggests that, on average, 50% of people’s general level of happiness is determined by genetics, with the rest dependent on the individual’s perception and specific circumstances. Some research suggests that people can adopt various strategies that can increase happiness, from forming stronger social bonds to investing in experiences to interacting more with outdoor green spaces.

Healthy brain, healthier heart?

Researchers have increasingly found links between poor mental health and higher heart disease risk. Stress, childhood trauma, and other issues may affect behavior and trigger physical changes that elevate heart risk. Taking steps to support mental health can potentially improve heart health as well.

Hope: Why it matters

As humans, we live our lives in a chaotic world, knowing that bad things happen to people every day, yet we are expected to continue moving forward. How do we do this? By finding ways to confront life's dangers with hope, an essential component of our well-being.

Want more happiness? Try this

What could you do today to feel happier? Three strategies drawn from positive psychology, a field that aims to improve moods and lives, may help.

Thoughts on optimism

Science continues to find that people with an optimistic outlook enjoy healthier and longer lives. The power of optimism is not just having a sunny disposition, but applying this mindset to make positive change. Even if people are not naturally optimistic, there are ways to change one’s outlook, such as looking for opportunities during trying times, focusing on personal strengths, practicing gratitude, and visualizing their best possible self.

Can personality affect heart disease risk?

Negative traits such as anger and insecurity have been linked to heart-related problems. Taking steps to temper these tendencies may help.

Remember the Type A personality? First coined back in the 1950s, the term refers to people who are aggressive, ambitious, competitive, and time-conscious. But the notion that Type As were more likely to have heart attacks than their more laid-back counterparts turned out to be untrue, as numerous studies in the 1980s and 1990s revealed.

But in the early 2000s, another personality type — Type D for distressed — began getting more attention. Type D people are anxious, irritable, and angry; they also tend to feel ill at ease in social situations and are uncomfortable opening up to others. According to a 2018 review in Current Cardiology Reports, having a Type D personality is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The lead author, psychologist Johan Denollet, first described Type D and created a test for it (see "Type D personality test").

An outlook better than optimism?

While looking at the sunny side of life offers a lot of light moments, there may be a better path to well-being.

Optimism feels good. The expectation that positive things will happen is associated with happiness and better health, including fewer heart attacks and a lower risk for premature death. Pessimism, on the other hand, feels bad; it makes you depressed or anxious and keeps the fight-or-flight system activated, triggering chronic inflammation (which is linked to many diseases).

You might think the best way to improve your well-being is to cultivate an optimistic outlook. Think again. "Better than cultivating an artificial optimism is to see the situation and the world realistically," says Ronald Siegel, an assistant professor of psychology, part-time, at Harvard Medical School and medical editor of the Harvard Special Health Report Positive Psychology.

A free, easy way to help your health

News briefs

Want something simple to boost your health? Try looking on the bright side. A large observational study published online Sept. 27, 2019, by JAMA Network Open tied optimism to fewer heart attacks and a lower risk for premature death. Researchers combed through 15 studies that included almost 230,000 people who were followed for an average of 14 years. Being optimistic was associated with a 35% lower risk for cardiovascular events and a 14% lower risk for an early death, compared with being pessimistic. The findings don't prove that seeing the glass half-full causes better health, but many other studies have reported similar findings. "Optimistic people may have healthier habits, such as regular exercise and healthy diets; and they may be better at regulating their emotions in stressful situations, which could also contribute to lower levels of inflammation. But we need more research to confirm it," says Dr. Laura Kubzansky, a study author and co-director of the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Image: Morsa Images/Getty Images

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