Does a positive attitude impact your health? We know long term, ongoing stress or fear can alter our body systems in a way that may lead to illnesses like cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. Ongoing anger and anxiety may even cause changes in the heart’s electrical stability and may be at the root of inflammation.

But can happiness have the adverse effect?

Laura Kubznasky, Harvard School of Public Health Associate Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health says, ““It looks like there is a benefit of positive mental health that goes beyond the fact that you’re not depressed. What that is is still a mystery. But when we understand the set of processes involved, we will have much more insight into how health works.”

A 2007 study at Harvard tracked more than 6,000 men and women 25-74 for twenty years. Kubansky found that enthusiasm, hopefulness, engagement in life, and ability to face stresses with emotional balance seems to reduce the risk of heart disease. The effect was measurable, even taking into account behaviors like not smoking and regular exercise.

What are some tools that may help prevent cardiovascular disease?

Try to be optimistic. Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends. Work on your ability to bounce back when things don’t go as planned. Make positive lifestyle choices like following a healthy diet and exercise. Avoid unhealthy responses to stress like excess drinking or overeating.

And try to put a smile on your face!