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Health, Dr. Mao, Santa Monica

Dr. Mao's Wellness Living: Optimism Helps Deal With Heart Disease

Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Courtesy Photo
Dr. Mao Shing Ni

Posted Sep. 15, 2012, 11:00 pm

Dr. Mao Shing Ni / Mirror Columnist

Happy people tend to live longer and, of course, happier lives, but did you know that optimism can also help with heart disease? More proof that happiness and health are intrinsically linked – that statement alone should be cause for a smile! Read on to find out what the research is saying about optimism and heart health, and how you can tune into happy thoughts to live longer.

The Findings Are Optimistic!

Recent studies have confirmed positive correlations between increased levels of optimism and happiness in a person and reduced levels of heart disease. We have seen plenty of substantiated research showing how sadness and anxiety can negatively affect our health, and recently, studies have also focused on the optimistic flip-side. Researchers at Harvard, after reviewing more than 200 studies that investigated the links between cardiovascular health and one’s emotional state, found that individuals with higher levels of optimism, happiness, hope, and satisfaction with one’s life were linked with reduced risks of heart disease and stroke. Amazing what a change of perspective can allow us, isn’t it?

Kindness Starts With You

“Make happy those who are near, and those who are far will come.” – Chinese proverb

Start by making yourself happy first! While researchers can’t say for sure which comes first, optimism or good health, the wisdom of Eastern sages reminds us that the body and mind are intrinsically linked, and any efforts we make to bring health to the body must also be made in the emotional realm as well. For example, to reduce anxiety and risk of heart disease, start by taking simple steps, to exercise more and eat better. I recommend that my patients also nourish and reinvigorate their inner selves through meditative practices, Qi Gong, positive affirmations, and practicing forgiveness for yourself and others. These actions help spread the optimism near and far!

Remember, longevity is only a byproduct of excellent health, and that health is truly the basis from which you can enjoy your life’s true potential. This means that we need to create the foundation of health, along with the right circumstances for ourselves to thrive in, both emotionally and physically. When we start to nourish ourselves, we unlock our true potential, and really begin to take joy in everyday life – and then spread it to others.

Focus On Yourself

The ability to take joy in everyday life is a blessing that is available to all of us. It requires a strong desire and willingness to change in order to create the joy you want. If you are unhappy, make the decision to be otherwise, and work to see that change in your life. You have that power, because no one can make you unhappy; only you determine how you feel. Commit to infusing your life and that of others with joy. Support this choice by freeing up your schedule to give you space for enjoyment, joining community groups with positive goals, and smiling more at friends and strangers alike.

Nourish Your Inner Self

Qi Gong is a series of traditional Chinese exercises that have been practiced for thousands of years. These gentle exercises focus on breath work and meditation, so that you may revitalize your body by redirecting its energy and cultivating peace. Here is a pose called “Gathering the Energy of Love.”

On either a clean floor or firm bed, sit in a gentle cross-legged position, also known as the lotus position. If this position is uncomfortable for you, sit in a chair instead. On each hand, let your middle finger and thumb touch, with the ball of your thumb gently placed over your middle fingernail; this is known as the hand pose of compassion in many Asian meditative practices, and it integrates the heart with the spirit. Visualize a wave of loving feeling and compassion overflowing into your body. Spend at least five minutes per day in this position. After a week, you will most likely notice that you feel more peace and happiness.

Replace The Negative With Positive

Feed your body with healthy energy by reframing the way you say things to yourself. Instead of letting your thoughts run wild with anxiety, resentment, or fear, practice positive affirmations. Say to yourself in these times of stress or imbalance, “I am proactive. I am diligent. I can handle the tasks I have ahead of me. I have just the right amount of work. I enjoy my responsibilities and fulfill them well.” Funny enough, repeating positive affirmations actually has the ability to suppress cortisol that is released by your adrenal gland in stressful times, which leaves you in a place of calm and with that much more peace of mind.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He has appeared regularly on “Dr. Oz,” “The Doctors,” and “EXTRA.” Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica and Newport Beach. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni founded Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to also founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter please visit

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