On Monday, I took a moment to reflect on the roles that empathy, compassion, and positivity can play in helping us all navigate these troubling times. Today, I want to piggyback on that discussion and talk a little more about what positivity can do for you, personally.
Because optimism is powerful. In fact, it’s powerful enough to save your life.
A recent, small pilot study looked at data from nearly 50 stroke survivors to examine the links between optimism, inflammation, stroke severity, and disability in the three months following a stroke.
Researchers assessed optimism levels according to the Life Orientation Test (a standard psychological measuring tool). They also assessed stroke severity and levels of key inflammatory markers—including interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha, and C-reactive protein (CRP).
And get this: As levels of optimism rose, both stroke severity and levels of IL-6 and CRP dropped—even after accounting for a number of other variables. In other words, mental health—and a positive environment, specifically—appears to play a major role in stroke recovery.
These findings are exciting, that’s for sure. But when you think about it, they’re not really all that surprising.
We know that inflammation after a stroke can slow the brain’s recovery significantly. And while this may be the first study to look at stroke patients, specifically, research has linked optimism with lower inflammation levels—and not coincidentally, a longer life—before.
Optimism adds years to your life
You may recall this study, which I shared with you just last year. But in case you missed it, allow me to recap…
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”
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.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Your state of mind matters as much as any other facet of your health. So nurture it every bit as fiercely.
P.S. For more insight into healthy aging—and how to “age younger” and feel better every day of your life—check out my Ultimate Anti-Aging Protocol. To learn more about this comprehensive, online learning tool, or to enroll today, click here now!
“Optimism linked to lower stroke severity, inflammation.” Science Daily, 02/12/2020. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200212084408.htm)