People who have positive psychological well-being may be more likely to engage in heart-healthy behaviors such as exercising, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding smoking, all behaviors that also reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.
These researchers reviewed the evidence linking well-being and health behaviors, and described strategies to enhance well-being studied by others, and the implications for cardiovascular health.
The authors categorize interventions designed to enhance well-being as:
- Expressing gratitude—writing letters of gratitude or listing things for which a person is grateful (counting blessings).
- Acts of kindness—things a person does to benefit someone else that involve a sacrifice or cost to the doer (donating blood or visiting an elderly relative, for example).
- Mindfulness—meditative practices to cultivate non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.
- Optimism—thinking positively about the future and imagining having success in accomplishing life goals (such as those related to relationships, career, and health).
Most well-being interventions were short-term in duration (6 to 12 weeks), inexpensive to implement, and conducted without a clinician. Well-being was found to be a consequence of engaging in the behaviors described, and that may lead to healthier behaviors, creating a “virtuous cycle” that contributes to cardiovascular health.