Today’s topic is anything but typical—but it’s something I talk to my patients about time and time again. Because there’s no question that your mindset affects your physical health. And by now, most people recognize the value of “mind-body” health.
But the benefits aren’t limited to meditation, mindfulness, and other relaxation techniques. The fact is, your attitude can shape your health, too. And new research reveals just how powerful that point of view can be…
Live brighter, live longer
A team of Boston researchers looked at subjects from two cohort studies: The Nurses’ Health Study (which included about ten years of follow-up and 70,000 women) and the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study (which followed 1,400 men for 30 years).
The participants all received an “optimism score,” based on how strongly they agreed with statements like:
- “I usually expect the best when times are uncertain”
- “I generally expect more good things to happen to me than bad”
And get this: Higher optimism scores had a strong correlation to higher survival rates. Specifically, the most optimistic women lived 15 percent longer than the least optimistic. And the most optimistic men lived 11 percent longer than their pessimistic peers.
Just to put that in perspective, this boost in life expectancy is equivalent to the drop in life expectancy that comes with a diabetes or heart disease diagnosis. In other words, we’re not talking small potatoes here.
Optimism also correlated with longevity, with the most optimistic women being 50 percent more likely to live past their 85th birthday—and optimistic men being 70 percent more likely to reach that same age.
And let me tell you, I’m not the least bit surprised. I have so many patients in this age group—and each and every one of them has a great attitude. They truly are my inspiration.
Nature vs. nurture
The correlations between optimism and longevity only got stronger when the authors adjusted for lifestyle factors—like not smoking and following a healthy diet.
Of course, it’s also quite possible that more optimistic people simply tend to make healthier choices—leading to a longer life.
But here’s something I didn’t know: Optimism is also a heritable trait—meaning that a good quarter of people with a bright attitude were simply born that way.
That also means that the other three quarters nurtured their optimism into existence—a conclusion that should offer hope to anyone who often finds themselves stuck in a web of negativity.
Because research shows that you actually can change your outlook on life, whether it’s through practices such as journaling, meditation, or therapy.
Having a good physician helps, too… one who knows the power of optimism and can help you see the silver lining in any situation. Because in the end, that sunny outlook really could add years to your life.
P.S. In case you missed it, I’ve been talking about a groundbreaking documentary series all week. In it, a hidden system within you is revealed. In fact, it’s a system that I use with my patients—and I was honored to speak to that fact within this series. So what are you waiting for? Click here to claim your seat (while openings are still available)!
“Is the ‘Bright Side of Life’ the Key to Longevity?” Medscape Medical News, 08/28/2019. (medscape.com/viewarticle/917056)