A heart patient’s positive attitude: a “crazy, crazy idea”?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I blame genetics – and three decades spent working in public relations – for generally making me one of those smiley, glass-half-full, annoyingly über-positive personalities much of the time. Not even horrific symptoms during my heart attack could alter the weak happy face that seemed freakishly pasted on throughout that ordeal.

It’s as if I were channeling Elizabeth Banks classic character in her short yet brilliant film Just A Little Heart Attack – in which she attempts to smile brightly despite textbook cardiac symptoms, and even good-naturedly taunts her concerned family:

“Do I look like the kind of person who’s having a HEART ATTACK?”

Don’t make a fuss. Chin up. Don’t worry, be happy. Just get on with it. I’m fine, just fine.

Trouble is: people like me who sport a perma-smiley face may not be “fine”. Not at all. And I now believe that feeling obliged to pretend we are what we’re not can be both physically and psychologically damaging.   Continue reading “A heart patient’s positive attitude: a “crazy, crazy idea”?”

Do you think too much? How ruminating hurts your heart

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Before my heart attack, I was a champion ruminator. Give me an ugly little problem to worry about, and I’d thrash it to death before finally flinging it aside in a fit of exhaustion, usually after some sleepless nights, a few extra grey hairs, and incalculable damage to my poor coronary arteries.

The late Yale University professor Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema’s research(1) has revealed some interesting facts about ruminating:

“When people ruminate about problems, they remember more negative things that have happened to them in the past, they interpret situations in their current lives more negatively, and they are more hopeless about the future.”

Research also links the habit of rumination with dangerously high levels of the body’s artery-damaging stress hormones like cortisol. Continue reading “Do you think too much? How ruminating hurts your heart”

How optimism can be good for women’s hearts

woman happy

by Carolyn Thomas @HeartSisters

Good news, my heart sisters: a study published this week in the heart  journal Circulation reports that women with an optimistic outlook on life may live longer and be less likely to develop heart disease than their pessimistic counterparts.

Researchers found that, among more than 97,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79, those with generally optimistic dispositions were 14% less likely to die over eight years than pessimists. They were also over 9% less likely to develop coronary artery disease, and 30% less likely to die of heart complications.

But can you actually change from thinking like a pessimist if that’s your nature?   Continue reading “How optimism can be good for women’s hearts”

Get over yourself: how to stop boring others with your heart attack story

by Carolyn Thomas

I was a distance runner for 19 years, before a brutal case of plantar fasciitis dashed my Olympics dream forever.  I’m kidding about that last part.  My running group (motto: ‘No pace too slow, no course too short!’) had a useful running rule.  The first ten minutes of every training run were devoted to whining.

“My quads hurt. I’m so tired. I think I’m getting a blister.”

But at precisely the ten minute mark, the rule was: no more whining. Let’s face it, my heart sisters: nobody is that interested.

Upon ruminating on the wisdom of Dr. Martin Seligman‘s book Learned Optimism that I’ve been enjoying lately (see Even Heart Patients Can Learn to be Optimists), I can’t help but notice a proliferation of gloom, doom, pessimism, criticism, complaining, blaming and a whack of running negative commentary around lately. And other people besides me are grumpy, too . . .  Continue reading “Get over yourself: how to stop boring others with your heart attack story”