The Good Heart: 101 Ways to Live A Positively Long, Happy Life


This post was contributed by O-Books.

Rooted in positive psychology, focusing on cardiac prevention and recovery, Dr. Austen Hayes’s The Good Heart: 101 Ways to Live a Positively Long, Happy Life helps readers replace depression, stress and anger with self-confidence, generosity and optimism. The book, with its 101 one- to two-page tips, written in easy-to-understand language by a well-respected expert in her field, targets the 80 million people in this country and millions more throughout the world who suffer from some form of diagnosed cardiovascular disease, as well as the 77 million Baby Boomers dedicated to disease prevention.

Dr. Hayes’s formula for providing succinct, up-to-date research-based tips helps readers quickly absorb information on how to behave, feel and think, approaching heart health in a new way—emphasizing more than exercise and diet—with changed attitude as the key to prevention and recovery. Combining information gathered from 30 years experience in cardiac psychology, hundreds of cardiac studies, and the most recent findings of both cognitive and positive-psychology literature, The Good Heart will change readers’ lives.

Here are 5 randomly selected tips.

1. At least two to three times each week someone tells me how much happier he or she would be if so and so would behave differently. This is usually accompanied with a vague, Of course, I know it’s not all him or her, but … Then the patient continues telling me how someone else’s way of behaving is interfering with his or her ability to have a positive outlook.

It’s not the way others behave, it’s the way you think. If you make other people responsible for your happiness, your reactions will be unruly.
– Your mate doesn’t take out the garbage. You’re unhappy.
– Your best friend is late again and you’ve waiting in the coffee shop for 10 extra minutes. You’re frustrated.
– Your co-worker didn’t respond to the message you sent yesterday. You’re insulted.
– You start thinking how inconsiderate everyone is, how completely undependable. They’re ruining your life and your mood.

Was it the trash, the 10 minutes, the delayed reply or was it that you turned these events into something intolerable, something more important than they should be?

Your thoughts, your mood. Yours, not theirs.

2. The angrier you are, the greater the likelihood you’ll develop heart disease. If you’ve already been diagnosed with cardiac illness, your anger may contribute to a first or second cardiac event. If you’re young and you’re angry, you may develop heart disease earlier in life than the average person your age. A recently published Harvard University study associated hostility with “poorer lung function and rapid rates of decline among older men.”

Know yourself. What are the triggers that most frequently lead to feelings of anger? Try to avoid waiting until you’re facing the things that most often lead to anger. Think ahead. Practice and rehearse before you reach your melting point. How will you respond to what bothers you most? For example, say to yourself, I expect that when I get stuck in traffic I’ll feel agitated and annoyed. But today I plan to handle this differently. Whether or not another driver does something that I don’t like, I don’t have to react. It’s foolish of me to expect that every driver on the road will navigate the same way—my way. There are many different models of cars and many different types of drivers.

Let me be the best driver I can be. My heart is too important.

3. There is growing acceptance in the medical community about the link between depression and heart disease. This isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s ever experienced a bout of depression. If you were to ask them where their sadness was felt, a hand held to the chest says it all.

Depression sends the body into a downward spiral with the same constriction of blood vessels, rise in blood pressure, increased levels of unhealthy fats in the bloodstream and turbulence within artery walls experienced by people who are hostile, anxious or fearful.

Personal habits begin to deteriorate as the depressed individual grows more withdrawn and less active. Memory fails, concentration and attention are poor, and a rational inner dialogue needed to lift the depressed individual up and out of despair disappears.

It’s time for action, not just thought. “There is support for a causal link between physical activity and reduced clinically defined depression” (Biddle et al., 2000). Is it possible to find a renewal of hope in a 10-minute walk? Absolutely.

If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease while experiencing depression, the risk of a cardiac event, such as a heart attack, or need for life-saving procedure, such as angioplasty, is far more significant than with a diagnosis of heart disease alone. If you’re sad most of the time, if you cry easily or you’ve lost interest in activities that you once enjoyed, rather than thinking about how awful you feel, take action: let your primary care physician and cardiologist know what’s going on.

4. Is there room for gratitude if your heart is failing?

Maybe you don’t think so. You think you don’t deserve this fatigue, this breathlessness, this loss of interest in things you’ve always loved to do, this awareness of the limits of time. You’re sad.
Sometimes you’re angry.

No matter how bleak the day, gratitude has a way of shifting attention from what seems to be missing to what we’ve been given. In a grateful moment you see what you may otherwise ignore: the outstretched hand of a small child, the green of spring grass, a best friend’s smile, the stranger who went out of her way to show kindness.

When hope is dim, more than ever you need something to help you cope. Try gratitude. It may surprise you.

5. Placing complete trust in every person you meet might not be a good idea. But, if like many who eventually develop heart problems, your level of trust is so low it borders on cynicism, the very thing you do to avoid harm, may do harm.

If you regularly doubt the intentions of others, and even good deeds are met with suspicion—What does this person want from me?— being with people will be stressful. A doubting person is guarded, on alert, always assuming others will only do what’s best for them.

When this happens, stress hormones are released. Fear of harm will activate the fight or flight response, raising blood pressure and circulating cholesterol. The association between people and discomfort fosters more and more social avoidance and isolation.

Maybe there are thoughtless, insensitive people out there, but there are also caring and compassionate people. Tell yourself you won’t jump to conclusions. Look for the good in those you meet.


Good Heart, The – 101 Ways to Live a Positively Long, Happy Life by Austen Hayes. Published by O Books.
Paperback 978-1-78099-525-0 | $14.95 | £9.99 | 109PP
eBook 978-1-78099-526-7 | $9.99 | £6.99