Do you consider yourself an optimist? Do you try to find the silver lining? Do you generally expect good things will happen? If you do, you may live longer than people with a more pessimistic view.
Higher levels of optimism were associated with longer lifespan and living beyond age 90 in women across racial and ethnic groups in a study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
In fact, according to findings from a previous study on optimism and lifespan, having a more sunny outlook may be an important factor in extending the life span of all older adults. The analysis of 69,744 women and 1,429 men found that optimistic men and women had an 11% to 15% longer life span than their pessimistic counterparts.
Positive people are less likely to experience cardiovascular events, lung function decline, and premature mortality. It is indeed an attitude with the strongest and most consistent associations with a wide range of positive health outcomes.
The researchers point out that optimism may be more likely to lead to positive habits and behaviors surrounding health, which could be partly how our attitude can contribute to our longevity.
Optimists may be more likely to exercise and eat a healthier diet.
They may also recover faster and better from acute stressors because they experience less emotional reactivity.
When faced with difficulties, more optimistic individuals appear to better regulate emotions by seeing challenges rather than threats. They may be better at achieving their long-term goals by resisting instant gratification.
All of this, the researchers believe, could be ways in which optimism helps us live longer. But of course, more research is needed to determine the links between optimism and good health.
The good news is that optimism can be learned. Only 25% of optimism is inherited or genetic. You can build your optimistic attitude much like you exercise a muscle. It takes consistency and practice, but it is well worth the effort in the hopes of a longer, healthier life.
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