You probably get all kinds of advice about good lifestyle choice like eating right, exercising, and abstaining from bad habits in order to live longer. While nobody is suggesting that you shouldn’t try to fit in more servings of vegetables and some moderate exercise, the key to a longer life might be a good attitude about life in general and about aging. At least that is the conclusion of a recent report published on the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and reported on by ABC News.
A survey conducted on 550 adults in one Ohio community demonstrated the link between longevity and a positive outlook about aging. These results might surprise you:
- People with positive attitudes lived an average of seven years longer than the average of all of the participants in the study.
- Even more surprising, a good attitude outweighed other factors, and these include gender, tobacco use, loneliness, and the lack of exercise.
This one study has not been backed up by much other long-term research like this, but it does support what other research has hinted at. For example, depression has been linked to lower chances of a recovery from heart attacks or strokes. Furthermore, people were were optimistic and cheerful in their twenties are more likely to survive into their eighties and nineties.
Is Stress the Killer?
Scientists have not conclusively proven why optimists live longer than pessimists. However, stress might be a major factor. Even though there has not been a lot of research on a direct link between a sunny disposition and longevity, there has been a lot of research on the ways that stress can negatively impact health.
Of course, you cynics out there might conclude that people with a positive outlook were happy because they were healthy. People with disabilities and diseases might have a lot more trouble remaining optimistic. But remember that people who had positive outlooks when they were young adults were likely to live longer, and those twenty-somethings were not likely to predict they would develop diseases as they aged.
Is it Too Late to Get Happier?
It really is never to late to work on a positive outlook. Often, stress and even depression are circumstantial. Researchers from the University of Rochester said that older people who felt more in control of their lives felt happier. Of course, you may not feel capable of controlling everything about your live, but you might start with some small steps.
Small steps to take control of your life and give you something to look forward to:
- Find a new hobby or resume an old one.
- Take part in social and community activities you enjoy and abandon ones that cause stress.
- Consider ways to downsize if financial problems are a major source of stress.
- Consider joining a religious organization even if you are not normally spiritual because houses of worship can provide support, counseling, and social activities.
Most important, evaluate how you feel about aging. If you regard growing older as a calamity, you might encourage a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you regard aging as another stage in life with its own positives and negatives, you will, at least, get more enjoyment out of your life.