At any age, looking at the cup and deciding it’s half full rather than half empty can improve the quality of life one experiences. And as time goes by, finding gratitude for health, relationships and all the little things that bring joy can actually help extend life. A recent Boston University study found that a greater sense of optimism may help promote better health and longevity.
The link between a positive mindset and well-being can be connected with how people manage stressful life events and control their emotions, avoiding negative rumination that can lead to depression. According to a recent BBC report, the research included 70,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and 1,500 men who took part in the Veterans’ Health Study. The most optimistic men and women had between 11 and 15 percent greater lifespan than those who expressed the least optimism. And those who looked favorably towards the future were 50 percent more likely to reach age 85.
The research is important to help support a growing senior population; by using techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy and helping older adults create a more positive outlook on aging, seniors may enjoy greater health and wellbeing. Other recent studies have found that stress and chronic negative thoughts can have a physiological effect on the body; stress is linked with shorter telomeres which speed up the aging process and increases the risk for chronic illness like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Believing that good things can happen in the future and making lifestyle choices that promote a happy, healthy life are tied together. When people look ahead with a positive attitude, they are more likely to eat a healthy diet, limit alcohol, stop smoking, get regular exercise and schedule regular medical check-ups. Cultivating a positive outlook and gratitude can help older adults have greater resilience when life inevitably throws its curveballs. And people generally prefer to be surrounded by optimistic friends; strong social bonds also promote successful aging.
The takeaway? Try to halt those negative thoughts and find something to be happy and grateful for each day; soon optimism becomes a habit that can change one’s whole perspective on aging.