The Latest Science: Optimists Sleep Better and Have Better Heart Health

Trait gratitude and trait optimism both predict lower heart rate and blood pressure, better sleep quality, more exercise, less stress, more positive expectations and reflections, and greater feelings of appreciation toward others.

That was the finding of a study "Comparing daily physiological and psychological benefits of gratitude and optimism using a digital platform"  by Amie Gordon, University of Michigan assistant professor in psychology, David Newman, the study’s lead author and UCSF postdoctoral scholar of psychiatry and UCSF psychiatry professor Wendy Berry Mendes.

The findings also showed differences: The researchers also believe gratitude highlights the positive aspects of the day, whereas optimism minimises the negative aspects of the day.

The researchers examined the traits of gratitude and optimism through a cell phone app called MyBPLab with embedded sensors that measured blood pressure and heart rates of the 4,825 participants from around the world including the U.S., Australia, India and Hong Kong.   The optic sensors send different light waves through the tissue to detect changes in blood volume and an algorithm in the phone is used to calculate blood pressure. To have accurate blood pressure levels, the user calibrates the phone sensor against an external arm cuff.  Respondents reported stress levels, health behaviors (sleep, exercise, daily expectations), and thoughts three times a day for 21 days from March 15, 2019, until Dec. 8, 2020. They rated 12 items such as “I have so much in life to be thankful for” and “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.”

“Gratitude also orients people toward others and the benefits they have bestowed to them, whereas optimism may orient people to themselves as they focus on their own specific future,” said Amie Gordon

“Our findings provide important advances to our understanding of gratitude and optimism by showing that gratitude contributes to accentuating the positive aspects of the day, whereas optimism functions by minimizing the negative aspects of the day,” said David Newman.

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