Motivating yourself and inspiring others to look on the bright side may be important contributors to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Higher levels of positive emotions were linked with better health and longevity in patients with heart disease, in a 5-year study conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. “Positive emotions are associated with a range of long-term health habits that are important for reducing the risk of future heart problems and death,” said lead study author Nancy Sin, PhD, post- doctoral fellow in the Center for Healthy Aging and in the department of behavioral health at Penn State, in a university news release.
Researchers interviewed and examined over 1,000 participants with some form of heart disease. All subjects took a questionnaire that rated how strongly they felt attentive, interested, excited, strong, enthusiastic, determined, proud, inspired, active and alert. Other assessments and examinations included blood tests, medical history, treadmill testing, echocardiograms, physical activity levels, sleep quality, medication adherence, alcohol use and smoking. Only 662 participants completed the 5-year follow-up assessments, with the same interviews and examinations.
Data analysis showed that a more affirmative outlook at baseline was associated with better health behaviors. Increases in positive affect over 5 years correlated with adopting healthier habits. The study authors noted that people with more upbeat emotions were more likely to feel energetic and motivated, which fueled healthy activities like exercise. And the more likely people were to be physically active, the more likely they were to sleep better, which led to more constructive emotions. More research is needed to understand the role of positive psychological factors in health behavior maintenance and change.
The study is available in Psychosomatic Medicine (2015; doi: 10.1097/PSY.000000000000238).