It’s not the first time that thinking positively has been linked with longevity and it probably won’t be the last. But a new study published in the medical journal PNAS suggests the more optimistic you are, the more likely you’ll have an ‘exceptionally’ long life – that is, living to the age of 85 or older.
Experts from Boston University’s School of Medicine followed 69,744 women for 10 years and 1,429 men for 30 years, assessing their level of optimism with a survey and keeping a check on their overall health and lifestyle habits. Optimism, according to their definition, is a general expectation that good things will happen, or a belief that the future will be favourable. The men and women who were assessed as the most optimistic were found to have, on average, an 11 – 15 per cent longer lifespan than those who were the least optimistic. They also had up to 70 per cent greater odds of reaching the age of 85 when compared to the least optimistic people too.
- The study doesn’t try to explain why optimism helps people live longer, but the authors note that earlier research suggests more optimistic people may be able to regulate their emotions and behaviour, plus they may also deal with stress and difficulties more effectively.
So how do you become a more positive thinker? If you’re naturally optimistic it’s easy, but what if you’re a diehard glass-half-empty person?
Here are a few things you could try:
Tackle negativity, one area at a time Try to work out which aspects of your life you have the most negative thoughts about. Then try to change the way you think about one of those things, rather than everything at the same time. Challenge the way you think about it, and try to think up ways of making your thoughts more positive before moving on to the next thing.
Hang out with positive people If you spend lots of time with people who are negative, it’s going to rub off. So whenever possible spend as much time with people who are optimistic rather than pessimistic. And when you don’t have a choice about who you’re with, try not to let someone’s negative mood affect you.
Smile (even when you don’t feel like it) Scientists say faking a smile may help you feel more positive when you’re feeling down or pessimistic. It can put people around you in a better mood too.
Look after your health You know the drill. Eat as healthily as you can, be as active as you can. The rest may just well fall into place.