When it comes to your health, attitude isn't everything, but it helps, says Hilary Tindle, author of Up: How Positive Outlook Can Transform Our Health and Aging. / Erik Isakson/Getty Images
Look on the bright side isn’t just a well-worn phrase — it’s medical advice worth heeding, says Hilary Tindle, author of Up: How Positive Outlook Can Transform Our Health and Aging. Tindle, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, cites research and patient case studies, including her own as a heart patient, to show how attitude can influence your health.
Not Pollyanna. “Being ‘up’ isn’t being happy or perky,” Tindle says. “It refers to traits that every human has, such as optimism, conscientiousness, and working toward and completing goals.” Optimists are resourceful, have coping skills and mobilize social support.
Know the Simple Seven. The American Heart Association has named seven healthy steps that can help prevent cardiovascular disease, a top killer of most Americans, Tindle says. They include exercising regularly, eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels within normal ranges, and avoiding smoking. Optimists meet more of the Simple Seven than pessimists do, she notes.
Positive self-talk helps. “Have the courage to change any negative thoughts, like ‘I’ll never lose weight,’” she says. “These are the behind-the-scenes changes in outlook that can help fuel and maintain healthy behavior.”
Take the long view. This is not a quick fix. But, Tindle says, the results of healthier habits can add “quality years to your life.”