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Development of a positive psychology intervention for patients with acute cardiovascular disease

Heart International 2011;6(2):e14


The management of depression and other negative psychological states in cardiac patients has been a focus of multiple treatment trials, though such trials have not led to substantial improvements in cardiac outcomes. In contrast, there has been minimal focus on interventions to increase positive psychological states in cardiac patients, despite the fact that optimism and other positive states have been associated with superior cardiovascular outcomes. Our objective was to develop an 8-week, phone-based positive psychology intervention for patients hospitalized with acute cardiac disease (acute coronary syndrome or decompensated heart failure). Such an intervention would consist of positive psychology exercises adapted for this specific population, and it would need to be feasible for practitioners and patients in real-world settings. By adapting exercises that were previously validated in healthy individuals, we were able to generate a positive psychology telemedicine intervention for cardiac patients that focused on optimism, kindness, and gratitude. In addition, we successfully created a companion treatment manual for subjects to enhance the educational aspects of the intervention and facilitate completion of exercises. Finally, we successfully performed a small pilot trial of this intervention, and found that the positive psychology intervention appeared to be feasible and well-accepted in a cohort of patients with acute cardiac illness. Future studies should further develop this promising intervention and examine its impact on psychological and medical outcomes in this vulnerable population of cardiac patients.


Positive psychology, optimism, cardiovascular disease, acute coronary syndrome, congestive heart failure


This work was supported in part by grant R01-DP00336 from the United States Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to Dr. Herbert Benson. The authors have no conflicts of interest to report and there were no other funding sources.


June 25, 2011



Published Online

December 01, 2011


Jeff C. Huffman, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street/Blake 11, Boston, MA, USA. Tel. +1.617.724-2910 - Fax: +1.617.724-9155. E-mail:

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