The pursuit of greater human longevity is–and has been–an active area of research for many years. After all, we all hope to live a long and healthy life. Over the course of time, eating well, exercising, and choosing a healthy lifestyle have been defined as important, while minimizing stress can also help as well. But researchers are now finding links between optimism and longevity. As it turns out, having a positive mindset can also play a part in how long we live as well as our quality of life.
When thinking about optimism and longevity, many have thought any association was simply coincidental. If one has a positive mindset, then their less likely to be depressed and more likely to choose healthy behaviors. While this may be true and affect how long we live, a positive mindset affects lifespan independently as well. Research is now showing that an optimistic outlook has additional health advantages. In fact, such a mindset adds a significant number of years to one’s life on average. Because of this, it’s important to explore the data concerning optimism and longevity a little closer.
“Choose to be optimistic. It feels better.” – Dalai Lama
Optimism and Longevity Studies
By definition, a positive mindset is one that leans toward optimism and sees events and outcomes in a brighter light. Rather than worrying about the worst-case scenario, those with such a perspective assume the best will occur. They also fail to see setbacks and challenges as obstacles but instead as opportunities to grow and change. As it turns out, about 25% of our ability to be optimistic on a regular basis is inherited. Twin studies have supported this statistic. However, this also means that the remaining 75% can be cultivating and developed on our own. Thus, if optimism and longevity are linked, this is something we should pursue.
In recent years, there have been a few noteworthy research studies that have explore the effects of a positive mindset. One study performed in 2019 examined how a positive mindset affected lifespan in a large group of men and women. Their results demonstrated that optimism increased longevity by 11-15% overall. In fact, they also found that those with the highest levels of optimism tended to live past 85 years. A more recent study involving nearly 160,000 women of all racial ethnicities also linked optimism and longevity. Those with positive mindsets increased their lifespan by 15 years on average. Likewise, being positive increased the odds of living an additional 10 years by 50%. These results and size of these studies strongly support a link between optimism and longevity.
“Although optimism itself may be patterned by social structural factors, our findings suggest that the benefits of optimism for longevity may hold across racial and ethnic groups.” – Hayami Koga, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
The Impact of a Positive Mindset
By having a positive outlook on life, there are certainly some advantages when it comes to health. Indeed, those who have a brighter perspective will be more likely to participate in physical activities and eat well. They will also tend to have less stress and better coping skills since they will be less likely to experience negative emotions. Plus, those with a positive mindset routinely have strong social networks and support systems. This makes them increasingly more resilient when unexpected events occur, which does beneficially affect longevity. Even the studies above noted that lifestyle choices did play a mediating effect in increasing human lifespan.
While these beneficial effects are worth noting, they explain only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to optimism and longevity. In the larger study mentioned above, the researchers took into account the other factors and variables. At the end of the study, it was determined that a positive mindset favorably impacted longevity in isolation by 15%. This is actually the same effect that exercising alone has on advancing lifespan. This is a pretty impressive figure that suggests there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to optimism. And because it is something anyone can develop, a positive mindset is something we should routinely pursue.
Developing Optimism and Positivity
In addition to research supporting a link between optimism and longevity, it has also shown that optimism can be cultivated. Clear evidence exists that cognitive and behavioral techniques can be used to create a positive mindset. This takes a commitment and a dedicated effort over time, but nonetheless, it can be developed. Based on the beneficial effects it offers, this should be included as part of a health routine. The following are some of the proven techniques that help in developing a more positive outlook and mentality.
- Practice Gratitude – Being thankful and showing it naturally helps us adopt a more positive perspective.
- Engage in Positive Self-Talk – Making an effort to constantly build ourselves up instead of tearing ourselves down is also important.
- Perform Mindfulness and Mediation – These activities help us be in the present moment and detect any negative feelings and thoughts that need to be addressed.
- Surround Yourself with Positivity – Ridding your life of toxicities and surrounding with positive people and content goes a long way in cultivating optimism.
- Choose to Live Healthy – A healthy lifestyle makes it easier to engage in positive perspectives and see challenges as opportunities.
Making Positivity Part of a Routine
Given the extensive research that now links optimism and longevity, positivity strategies should be included in our health pursuits. In addition to the indirect benefits that a positive mindset has on wellness, direct effects on lifespan also exist. In addition, positivity has holistic effects on our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Active longevity research is exploring a variety of new interventions designed to extend human lifespan. But one of the easiest ways may well be through positivity exercises.