If you need help looking on the bright side, researchers may have found proof behind the power of positive thinking. Decades of research suggest that seeing the glass “half full” or “half empty” may be an indicator of our chances of living beyond the age of 85.
A recent study finds that optimism may increase a person’s life span by 11 to 15 percent, according to the Boston University School of Medicine and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study’s participants also showed a 50 to 70 percent boost in achieving what they deem as “exceptional longevity” — defined by living to the age of 85 or beyond — through one’s optimistic outlook.
The link to a more positive mindset was discovered in both sexes, after researchers divided groups based on levels of optimism — highest, lowest and in-between — while examining their mortality statistics.
In addition, researchers found that reaching exceptional longevity is “independent of socioeconomic status, health conditions, depression, social integration and health behaviors like smoking, diet or alcohol use.”
Positive thinking doesn’t just boost mental health, researchers say, it may also help lead to better cardiovascular health and a higher survival rate for those diagnosed with cancer and other health benefits.
The Mayo Clinic says positive thinking may also:
Lower rates of depression
Foster a greater resistance to the common cold
Be tied to better psychological and physical well-being
Develop coping skills during hardships and times of stress
One prevailing theory behind these benefits is that optimistic people may be more motivated to maintain healthier habits — like exercising more and smoking less. It may also help regulate their emotions and behaviors with resiliency.
If you’re not an overly sunny person, don’t fret. Research-backed recommendations show how to help you boost your positivity and rewire your brain. Some of the ideas include:
Accentuate the positive: Try positive affirmations and keep positive thoughts at the forefront of your mind.
Stop comparing: If you find yourself in a rabbit hole of comparison on social media, put your phone down and remember each person has unique value to share.
Eliminate the negative: It’s easy to fall into a negative spiral of thinking. Do something to short-circuit that train of thought. Grab your favorite book, exercise, listen to music, call a friend.
Self-care: Show yourself some love through a healthy diet, exercise and sleep to improve physical and mental health. Try mindfulness. The practice of focusing on the present moment may have a powerful impact on your outlook.
Learn: Challenge your mind to learn something new each day to give your brain a boost.
Spiritual care: Center yourself by exploring your own beliefs about the meaning and purpose of life through the philosophical or religious ideas you embrace.
Act locally: Volunteering can make an immediate positive change to lift your spirits. Try what is meaningful to you whether it’s donating clothes and household items, cleaning up a neighborhood or road, or helping out at a school or senior center. Consider random acts of kindness to bring joy to others.
If you are feeling a little gloomy, know that science shows the power of putting optimism to practice, a pursuit that may hold lifelong rewards.
Sandra Crews is the Western Regional Health Strategies Consultant for UnitedHealthcare.
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