Want to help your guy lower his risk of cardiovascular disease? Make him laugh.
Do you cringe as your guy tells another of his terrible jokes? You don’t have to like them, but they may be saving his life. When it comes to fighting cardiovascular disease, one of the top killers of Canadian men, it turns out that our ability to laugh at life’s little things matters.
Cardiovascular disease is affecting more Canadians each year. Nine in 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for developing this chronic disease, and one person dies from it every seven minutes. Cardiovascular disease is responsible for 28 percent of all male deaths.
We’ve known for some time the important role that lifestyle and diet play in the development and prognosis of this disease. Now a new essential element is emerging, and this one is something to smile about—whether or not you’re having a good time.
Researchers are discovering that enjoying your life, being satisfied with it, and generally feeling positive and content can help keep your heart happy. Those who exhibit these traits and behaviours may be less likely to experience heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes than their pessimistic, unsatisfied, unhappy peers. What’s more is that having a good time in life seems to work in a dose-dependent manner. That means the more we’re enjoying ourselves, the more our hearts will thank us.
Here’s a look at some of this research.
When one group of researchers wanted to know whether loving life meant a longer life, they conducted a 12-year study with almost 90,000 people. They found that the men in their study who didn’t enjoy life were 1.5 times more likely to experience a stroke or heart disease than those who had a high level of life enjoyment. These unhappy men were also twice as likely to die as a result of coronary-related events.
There are many aspects when it comes to feeling satisfied with life. In another study, researchers followed almost 8,000 men and women to find out which facets were the most important when it came to protecting their hearts. At the end of the study, researchers found that those who were most satisfied with their job, family, self, and sex life were 26 percent less likely to develop heart disease.
You know that friend who always expects the best to happen, no matter what comes his way—the one you go to when you’re having a bad day because he can put a positive spin on it? As it turns out, his sunny outlook is well founded. Recent research has looked at the link between seeing every cloud’s silver lining and cardiovascular disease.
One such study followed a group of healthy elderly men for 15 years and found that the most optimistic of the bunch were 50 percent less likely to die from heart disease.
He gave you his heart, so naturally you want to keep it healthy and safe. Positive psychology research has uncovered a number of ways to boost your attitude and mood. Like anything worth having, sometimes happiness takes a bit of practice. Show your guy these exercises, or do them together to strengthen your relationship as you strengthen your hearts.
Regularly counting your blessings and feeling grateful for them can bolster feelings of life satisfaction and well-being. Expressing gratitude can also help to build and maintain strong relationships.
Not sure where to start? Try writing a list of things you are grateful for, or even just spend some time focusing on and appreciating the things you’re happy for in your life. If you’re thankful to someone for help they’ve given you or something they’ve done, write them a letter or tell them. All of these gratitude exercises can be effective, so choose the one that feels the most natural, or mix it up.
Optimism isn’t something we’re born with or without. With a simple exercise, you can train your brain to start to expect that good things will happen and that your future will be meaningful and fulfilling. Take a moment to focus on visualizing your best possible future self—you can even write it down. Don’t put restrictions into your visualization or feel like it isn’t achievable. Instead, put your attention toward it.
It’s so easy to get bogged down with our never-ending to-do lists that we often forget to make time for the things we love to do. Take a moment and let go of unnecessary commitments, delegating or dropping them entirely. Use your newfound time to do something you enjoy or something you have wanted to try.
Other ways to enhance well-being and life satisfaction include performing kind acts, meditating, and cultivating your personal strengths by using them in novel ways. For instance, if you’re a great photographer, why not volunteer to photograph local sports teams or charity events? Have a friend going out of town? Offer to walk her dog.
When it comes to sustaining your newly boosted well-being, studies have found a couple of factors make a difference. It’s important that your actions are meaningful and mindful. So, if you find that you’re just going through the motions of an exercise, consider performing it less frequently but with more effort and dedication.
Researchers have also found that variation is indeed the spice of happiness in life. Instead of just doing one exercise, try a combination of different ones or alternate among a few that are most enjoyable to you.