The Power of Optimism: Think positive for better heart health—and more!

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and globally. While that may sound dire, there’s reason to be hopeful. It turns out that optimism—often described as having the tendency to think that good things will happen in the future—may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers looked at 10 heart disease studies, with an average follow-up of 13.8 years, and concluded that optimism is associated with lower cardiovascular risk. In fact, people with high optimism had a 35 percent lower risk for cardiovascular events than pessimists. Beyond its heart health benefits, optimism is linked to better physical well-being, better coping skills, and higher quality of life. If you feel like more of a pessimist than an optimist, you may be wondering how you can change your thinking. Research points to a visualization exercise called the “best possible self” as being effective at increasing optimism. The idea is to spend ten or so minutes vividly imagining a positive future in which you have accomplished your goals—e.g., found love and career success, established strong friendships, are fit and healthy, and so on. Visualize your future in as much detail as possible, and then write down what you imagined. Even one session of the “best possible self” exercise can provide a boost in optimism. So go ahead and put on those rose-colored glasses—for your heart and your well-being.