THE STRAIGHT UP
Happy Smile, Healthy Heart Are Positive Feelings Good for Your Health?
About a year and a half before we got Buster, my husband and I had an “imaginary dog.”We were still on the fence about getting a dog, so we spent a lot of time trying to picture how a dog would fit into our lives. I already knew I wanted anAustralian labradoodle with a golden- brown coat named Buster. Periodically, Kirk and I would say something like, “What would Buster be doing right now?” or “Howwould our plans have to change if Buster was here?”We probably sounded a bit weird to other people when we talked about a dog that didn’t exist. The day we finally stopped talking about our imaginary dog andmade hima real dog was one of my happiest days in recent memory. Getting tomeet my puppy for the first time was the best experience. He’s the sweetest, cutest puppy in the world.What’s really cool is that Buster is exactly howwe imagined he would be. Buster is literally the dog of my dreams andmy happy place.
This researchmatches a study published by the American Journal of Cardiology. Between 1985 and 2007, LisaYanek, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at Johns HopkinsUniversity, analyzed data on around 1,500 healthy individuals who were at risk for coronary artery disease.Through periodic physical examinations and general well-being surveys,Yanek and her team found patients who showed positive well-being were up to 48 percent less likely to suffer from coronary artery disease. Basically, happiness is literally good for your heart! We are just starting to discover that happiness is more than just a nice feeling— it’s a crucial part of our health and well-being. And to me, that’s a pretty good excuse to spend more time playing withmy puppy!
“I BELIEVE WE ALL NEED TO HAVE SOMETHING, SOMEPLACE, OR SOMEONE IN LIFE THAT BRINGS US PURE JOY.”
all suffered from coronary heart disease.The researchers discovered that participants who reported higher levels of positive emotions, including “interested,” “proud,” “enthusiastic,” and “inspired,” weremore likely to be physically active and enjoy better sleep while being less likely to abusemedications at the end of the study. “We found that positive emotions are associated with a range of long-termhealth habits, which are important for reducing the risk of future heart problems and death,” said Nancy L. Sin, postdoctoral fellow in the Center for HealthyAging and the department of biobehavioral health at Penn State.
I believewe all need to have something, someplace, or someone in life that brings us pure joy.
Findingmoments of happiness helps counteract bad feelings like stress, anger, or disappointment. Don’t get me wrong—we need our negative emotions!They help us knowwhen we are in danger, prepare us to run or fight, and help process life’s misfortunes. But happiness is important to our health and survival too.
Over the course of five years, researchers fromPenn State followed 1,000 patients who
What’s your happy place? –Dr. Leslie Pitner
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