I remember a funny joke about the pessimist who never applied to the optimism club, because he thought that he probably wouldn’t get in. Changing a negative mindset can be challenging for many and takes work, but there’s much reason to make a change if this sounds familiar. What may have once been disregarded as nothing more than a myth is now a scientifically proven concept:. An optimistic outlook on life has been linked to a longer lifespan and increasing one’s odds of living past the age of 85. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted this study to test how effective non-biological factors are in achieving longevity, noting that most studies on the topic focus strictly on biomedical factors.
Optimism can be defined as having a positive outlook on life while holding the belief that one’s future is favorable and promising. Of course, changing your overall mindset is much easier said than done. However, there are strategies people can implement to improve their daily moods and train their minds to think positive thoughts in the face of a challenge, such as therapeutic methods and mental health exercises.
While there were no biologically definitive reasons optimism contributed to a longer lifespan, researchers were able to drum up a few plausible explanations, the first being that optimistic people tend to make healthier decisions when it comes to diet and exercise. The same people will likely avoid bad habits like smoking or excessive drinking.
Being able to effectively regulate one’s emotions is another trait that comes with positivity. When faced with stressful situations or everyday challenges, optimistic individuals have the ability to quickly destress following said event, and get back to their regular state of contentment. They would also be able to control how they react emotionally under extreme circumstances, allowing for a faster recovery and avoidance of unnecessary stressors. All of these findings strongly suggest that optimism serves as a “psychological resource” promoting and encouraging healthy decisions and lifestyles.
For people that may struggle to think positively and embrace a general sense of optimism, even smaller acts intended to boost mental health have been shown to have similar effects. Start small with meditation, light exercise, and enjoying personal hobbies. These can eventually build the foundation for an optimistic outlook on life which, in turn, could help that life last much longer.
“People with higher optimism more likely to live exceptionally long lives.” Medical News Today, August 27, 2019.
“Optimism is associated with exceptional longevity in 2 epidemiological cohorts of men and women.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, August 26, 2019.