News Flash! Optimistic People Live Longer
I have noticed that optimism, especially in the face of adversity, opens up opportunities and team cohesion. By holding strong intention, with strong follow-through, good things happen for all who buy-in. Complaining doesn’t solve problems.
According to a major new study involving thousands of people across 3 decades, optimistic people live as much as 15% longer than pessimists.
Optimism refers to the general belief that good things will happen, and because we have a lot of control over our choices and important outcomes, the future will be favorable.
Pessimism, meanwhile, generally refers to the opposite – everything is a “scam” and everyone is out to get us, we have very little control over our lives, and bad things are bound to happen.
The research reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, combined data from two large, long-term studies including one involving 69,744 women and 1,429 men. All completed surveys assessing their feelings about the future and other measures.
After controlling diet and exercise, health conditions such as chronic diseases, and other factors, researchers found that the most optimistic women and men demonstrated, on average, 11-15% longer lifespan.
They also had 50 to 70% greater odds of reaching 85 years of age compared to their least optimistic peers.
As to why this is the case, senior study author Laura Kubzansky, Ph.D., MPH, says, “Other research suggests that optimistic people may be able to regulate emotions and behavior as well as bounce back from stressors and difficulty more easily.”
“Research on the reason why optimism matters so much remains to be done, but the link between optimism and health is becoming more evident,” noted another study author, Fran Grodstein, ScD, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The good news for the “negative Nellies” amongst us is that optimism is not a “fixed trait” within us, and greater optimism can be learned.
The challenge, of course, is that pessimists may not believe such changes are possible.
Nonetheless, research shows that just 30 minutes a day of meditation over two weeks can produce significantly more positive changes in the brain.
Simply practicing gratitude — such as taking a few minutes daily to write down what makes you thankful — has also been shown to improve optimism.
Our great artists, scientists, and leaders have words of wisdom for us to reflect upon:
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”