Optimism & Increased-Longevity. Does The Mindset Control Matter?:
The more Science progresses, the weirder it seems to get.
And conversely, it often tends to confirm many adages from a long time ago.
Like the one by Hippocrates about food being medicine and it being a better idea to get your vitamins and minerals there.
Well another old adage is one about being young at heart and never acting your age.
And if the work by BU, Harvard and a few others is right, a positive mindset might actually make the difference between a long life and a shorter one…
Psychosomatic Medicine Rears Its Head Again:
So trying to connect an improved physical life to an improved psychological life has been an idea for awhile.
And aside from the evidence from bad habits, it’s been slow-going.
As we study the real-effects on health of things that seemed like mere platitudes awhile ago,
Science is finding out the cautions against them don’t ring so hollow anymore.
But The Short Answer for the current work is that both women and men who were optimistic tended to not only live longer, but to a significantly higher age, and this confirms other studies of a similar nature.
Read on to find out more details…
The Fountain Of Youth:
So Mankind has been trying to figure out a way to live longer since the beginning of time.
We’ve tried all kinds of crazy contraptions, shocking the hell out of ourselves with electricity,
And even Meditation!
We haven’t come up with too many routines in life or gadgets that make the good times roll a little longer.
And as the search continues, one of the things fringier research gets back to after all the drug-trials,
Is Mindset. If monks of one type or another have been meditating for a very long time,
Maybe they have the right idea on how to live to 100?
Purpose, Happiness, Optimism. Thoughts = Longevity?:
So to join the previous work on Happiness, and Purpose,
BU, Harvard, and other colleagues did a meta-analysis of previous studies on Optimism.
What they found after looking at about 1500 men and 70,000 women,
Was that they each tended to live longer if they self-reported higher optimism on the study surveys.
The average increase in lifespan was about 13% longer.
And even more impressive is the report that their odds of living to 85 and older were an average of 60% higher than the pessimists.
These results even held when the subjects in question had their data controlled for age, education, psychology, and health-factors.
So How Does Optimism Make You Live Longer?:
The study authors are not completely-sure,
But they have a few ideas on how the power of Optimism might influence someone’s survival ability:
1) They may be able to Regulate Emotions Better
2) They may be able to Regulate Behavior Better
3) As a result, they may Bounce Back from Stress or Disappointment Better
4) They may also have Fewer Bad Habits in:
4a) Diet Quality & Quantity
4c) Alcohol Use
4d) Drug Use
5) They may also have More Good Habits in things like:
5a) Sleep Hygiene
What About Some Other Factors?:
Well, if you look at some of the previous work on healthspan and lifespan,
Another factor is the Social one.
People who engage more with friends as they get older tend to live longer and also avoid cognitive-decline.
One of the studies that confirms this is called the Grant & Glueck Cohort trials,
It followed 2 groups of men they called “Advantaged” & “Disadvantaged”, for over 75 years of observation.
And despite a few of the tendencies in BU’s work that may suggest Wealth might be a factor they haven’t controlled for,
This study found that even regardless of income, there was one single most reliable predictor of being healthy & happy in old-age:
Satisfying connectedness to Family, Friends & Community.
But Optimism Is Really Just Happiness + Purpose:
I think that’s the real key here.
Happy people have shown previously to this study to live longer.
Even people smiling in group-photos tended to survive better even when tracked-down 70 years later.
And maybe Happiness is not too much more than just stubborn resistance to Stress.
Hopefully it is, because the strain on all your body-systems from excess amounts of those fight-or-flight hormones is toxic,
And has been implicated in at least the following problems:
1) Cardiovascular Disease of all types
3) Whole-body Inflammation
4) Immune System malfunction
5) Depression & Anxiety
6) Obesity due to “Stress Eating”
10) Accelerated Aging
11) Early Death
Optimism Also Has The Power Of Anticipation:
One of the other things that Optimism has aside from Happiness,
Is a positive outlook toward the future.
So if you think tomorrow can be great, why would you take out your frustrations on your body & your health today?
Your mindset-alone, might just do a good job of stopping that.
So the previously woo-woo field of psychosomatic-medicine might just include positive habits that have no other origin than Mindset.
And one of the big rushes for a mindset that is oriented toward the future is Anticipation!
Is by planning them way far in advance,
Making the planning-itself its own adventure,
And giving yourself the brain-cocaine boost that anticipation fires off when it gives you some Dopamine in-response to your plans.
This is also the same power behind the positive-possibility behind the word, “Maybe”.
And Maybe That’s Your Key:
Maybe Optimism can be learned.
What if you could work on:
1) Fixing any Anxiety & Depression with a professional
2) Hacking your Dopamine-System by finding something, anything to look forward to
3) And even doing the personal-research to find some kind of Mission or Purpose in any facet of your life
4) Or play Devil’s Advocate to every pessimistic thought you have and try hard to argue the exact opposite case or interpretation of information
5) Even Engaging in Nostalgia is good for your Grit
Perhaps just the way people suggest that at some level, Happiness is a Choice.
Maybe with a few thought-tools, Optimism can be one also?
Less Powerful Than Purpose, But Still Impressive:
So it would seem, that just like the work on previous positive mental habits,
That even something which appears less-powerful than Purpose/Mission which can propel a person through any obstacle over decades,
Can still drive both internal and external benefits for those with the sunny attitude about the future.
Now it may not be as easy as doing 10 more minutes at the gym,
And personal mindset change takes time, work, and discomfort.
But regardless of how opposite Optimists and Pessimists might be,
It’s looking like optimism really Does seem to now have proven life-extension benefits.
Photo Credits: “quote on tarmac” by Sydney Rae
• Source: BU
• Source Study: PNAS – Optimism is associated with exceptional longevity in 2 epidemiologic cohorts of men and women