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A Happy Life Leads to a Happy, Healthy Heart

Emma Goddard
by Emma Goddard Published on January 27, 2015

While it might be obvious that looking at the glass half full is the best approach to living your life, new studies have been released proving even further that both optimism and having friends help keep your heart healthy. Basically, as long you're staying social and reminding yourself that the grass is always greener, you're more likely to have better cardiovascular health. Seems simple enough, right?

Researchers at the University of Illinois recently conducted a study and found that of the 5,100+ subjects, those who had had higher levels of optimism had better heart health scores.

Assessing the participants' cardiovascular health across a range of measures, researchers discovered that happier individuals had better blood sugar and total cholesterol levels than their counterparts.

On the other hand, the Annals of Behavioral Medicine published a study revealing how having friends and being social also benefits your heart health. As if the news about being happy for a healthy heart wasn't already good enough. Researchers at Concordia University conducted the study by observing a group of international students who had moved to Montreal over a five-month period.

The student participants had their heart rates measured when they first arrived in Montreal and researchers tracked how their social lives improved or hurt their heart health. "The results showed that those who managed to build a better support network were healthier overall," according to a press release from Concordia University. Students who were able to make more friends and maintain a steady social life had an increase in heart rate variability while those who remained more isolated had a decrease in heart rate variability. So it seems safe to say that staying positive and bonding with your peers will lead to a healthier life.

How easy is it to be happy?

However, is it really that easy? After all, like the international students who moved to Montreal, I too recently moved to New York City, and I already know how difficult it is to make friends when you're completely new to an area. On top of that, adjusting to a new social scene and learning where I fit in has probably made me a bit more of a pessimist than usual, though I like to think I'm a pretty happy person overall. Really, I'm not a Grinch.

So seeing that, if I had been a participant, I might have fit in with both of these studies, I thought it would make sense if I worked with all of you out there by discussing ways to improve your/my heart health. How? Well for starters, taking up classes like yoga and going to the gym in general should help make your life a little more zen.

Even meditating and drinking green tea are ways to make you feel more relaxed and less stressed, and we all know that taking your stress down a level can help improve your attitude and allow you to have a better outlook on life. Additionally, doing simple things like reflecting on the good moments in your life, even if you're experiencing a rough day or even week, can bring you back down to earth. I know that can be difficult (trust me, I've been there), but taking some time to remember that hey, things aren't as bad as they seem, can make a whole world of difference.

As for making friends and being more social, there are plenty of things you can do. Whether that means inviting your co-workers out to lunch to get to know them better or breaking the awkward silence in the elevator by talking to someone in your apartment building, these simple life changes can make your heart health that much better. In the office kitchen making coffee?

Comment on how cute that girl's dress is or ask that guy in the office if he saw that movie that premiered this past weekend. Though it's super cliche, even talking about the weather will help you get your foot in the door when it comes to making new friends.

As much as I know how easy it is to get yourself into a slump, I've also come to realize over the years that it really takes more effort to be in a bad mood than it does to simply take a breath, release that bad energy and be happy. A happier life and better heart health? Sounds good to me!

What do you do to make yourself happier? Tweet us @wewomenUSA!

This article was written by Emma Goddard. Follow her on Twitter @egoddardhokie.

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