Aging With Optimism – What The Science Says

aging with optimism

 

Just how powerful is aging with optimism?  You may be shocked!

 

In researching this post, I found many definitions of ”optimism.”  But there was one that I liked the most – simple, yet comprehensive…

 

“The expectation that good things will happen…” or, more formally, “anticipating the best possible outcome of actions or events.”

 

I always knew that optimism was good for you – that an optimistic outlook on life was healthy – that consistent optimism could probably help you live longer.

 

But who knew?!  This blew my mind!  A 2019 scientific study1 of 71,000+ women and men found that aging with optimism is related to:

 

1       An 11-15% longer life span… and greater odds of achieving “exceptional longevity” (living to age 85)

 

No that 11-15%  is not a typo.  And, surprisingly, these findings were not affected by socioeconomic status or degree of social integration, by the participants’ health condition, depression, whether they smoked, drank alcohol or what their diet looked like.

 

Think about it… Just working at being genuinely more optimistic could help you live not a little longer, but rather YEARS longer!  If you are 45+ (our target audience for this blog), we’re talking some serious extra longevity (and you’ll even enjoy it more!).

 

11-15%...  really?!   But there’s more… I found lots of studies that reflect a consistent message – aging with optimism significantly improves and extends life.  Here are just a few of those studies and their findings:

 

2       Optimistic women had a 23% greater likelihood of healthy aging2

 

3       Optimism may significantly improve sleep quality3

 

4       Increased optimism was associated with up to a 23% reduction in coronary heart disease mortality – both men and women4

 

5       The most optimistic people are 24% more likely to maintain good cognitive and physical health as they age5

 

6       Optimists had a 35% lower risk for the most serious complications due to heart disease, compared to pessimists6

 

A 2014 comprehensive review of multiple studies on aging with optimism by agencies of the National Institutes Of Health7 concluded that “Optimism is a mental attitude that heavily influences physical and mental health, as well as coping with everyday social and working life.”  

 

They also concluded that “optimists are significantly more successful than pessimists in aversive events and when important life-goals are impaired.”

 

In other words, optimism is so powerful that applications to enhance optimism “should be integrated in treatments and prevention programs respectively in mental and physical health, to improve well-being.”

 

This is a big deal.  I never heard about this extraordinary high level of potential life-enhancing power that optimism provides until I started researching this post.

 

Do-It-Yourself Optimism Builder

 

Another major takeaway of my research is how easily and effectively you can improve your level of optimism and make it truly life-changing.  I found a 2011 study8  that found just a 5 minute meditation daily for 2 weeks imagining a Best Possible Self (BPS)  resulted in a significantly large increase in optimism – even allowing for other influencing factors.

 

In other words, anyone can do this – quickly and easily!  How many other activities could contribute to an 11-15% increase in longevity and enhanced physical and mental health with an investment of just 5 minutes a day?  This is powerful stuff.

 

So take a few minutes and think about this carefully. This could be one of the easiest, most effective ways you can seriously affect the rest of your life.  Step # 6 of my “6 Steps To An Ageless Life” is TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE.  This is what I’m talking about.  Aging with optimism is within your grasp.

 

A brighter, healthier, longer life can await you if you just work at being more optimistic about your life.  Don’t get stuck on the negative stuff.  Expect good things to happen.  They more often do.

 

Here are 5 daily exercises that I found on a Canadian website9 and liked because they are simple and can be easily used by anyone, anywhere, anytime to enhance our optimism quickly:

 

  • Focus on what's going well. Write down three things that have gone well in the past day. These can be large, like getting a raise, or small, like "I talked with an old friend today." Describe the cause of each event, and credit yourself for the part you played in it, such as "I made that phone call I've been putting off for a long time."

 

  • Practice gratitude. Write down three things in your life that you are grateful for. This kind of focus on what enriches your life can help keep your thoughts and feelings more positive.

 

  • Look for the benefits. Think of a negative event from your near or distant past. Write it down. Now think of something positive that has or could come of it. Write it down. For the positive thought, use larger handwriting or a favorite color.

 

  • Look ahead. Picture yourself doing something that feels good. Expect good things to happen.

 

  • Build yourself up. When you need it, lean on others or your faith to build more strength. Say to yourself often, "I am strong."

 

Here’s a good 10-point summary of why it’s valuable to think like an optimist   (  https://www.happify.com/hd/10-reasons-to-think-like-an-optimist  )

 

Here are a few thought-provoking videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch/el7NmAH6Jro

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJOLYnz6TwE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XFLTDQ4JMk

 

Sources:

1https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1900712116

2 https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(18)32210-4/fulltext

3 https://www.slashgear.com/optimism-may-be-key-to-significantly-improving-sleep-quality-07586607/  

4  https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jar/2016/5185104/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/population-development/2019/05/03/study-finds-those-most-optimistic-are-24-more-likely-to-maintain-good-cognitive-and-physical-health-as-they-age/

6 https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20190927/evidence-shows-optimism-might-lengthen-your-life#1

7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2894461/  

8 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21450262/

9 https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=abl0330

 

 

 

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