Medical news has identified many lifestyle factors that increase disease but it’s time to look at the positive factors that promote healthy long lives. Optimism is top of the list. In a 2019 study from Boston University, researcher’s followed over 70,000 people for more than 10 years and found that the most optimistic personalities had a 50-70% chance of reaching 85 years of age with good quality of life. Is it because optimistic people take better care of themselves, laugh more, are more resilient or perhaps, are surrounded by a supportive network?
Optimism means that one has a positive expectation of the future and even in adversity, assumes that good things will happen, spill over and make a difference. Optimism is a personality trait, a coping skill and a way of life. Optimist think positively, have hope and inspire others. Optimism can be trained and lead to healthy lives, successful relationships and even higher incomes.
An Optimist says….
- In uncertain times, I usually expect the best
- This solution is the best of all worlds
- I can make lemonade out of lemons
- There’s a rainbow after the storm for a reason
- Anything is possible when you believe
- Life is a bowl of cherries
A pessimist says…
- If something will go wrong for me, it will
- Nothing ever goes my way
- I was born under an unlucky star
- No point in planning unless it’s a reality
- You might think you get it done but history tells me you can’t
Optimism and Health
- Pessimistic men have been found to be twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease than optimistic men, even after taking other risk factors into account.
- Optimist were found to have 35% less heart disease and lower blood pressure over their lifetimes
- Cardiac patient recovering from heart surgery had reduced hospital re-admissions if they were optimistic about their recovery and their future
- Interpreting emotional experiences as positive reduce anxiety and depression.
- Optimistic people find more constructive coping skills for daily stresses
- Improved self esteem is associated with a sense of purpose which is stronger with positive thoughts.
- Improved immune system function against viral diseases as demonstrated in 2016 with a 30% less respiratory infection rate in those scoring higher on Optimism tests
- Lower levels of Cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to improved longevity
- Great independence with aging including motivation to stay active.
Training my Brain for Optimism
- Optimism is a left brain activity and pessimism is a right brain activity. Promoting the use of your left brain with creative projects, music and even funny movies, helps activate your left brain.
- Shifting your perspective to think happy thoughts, positive outcomes and hopeful beginnings
- Seek out like-minded positive optimistic people who are grounded in life and have positive energy
- Turn off the whiners, the bad news and those with a fatalist approach to life
- Don’t ignore the negative or difficult challenges you have but instead acknowledge them and understand how to move forward