A recent study suggests that optimism can prolong life as it can keep serious and life-threatening conditions at bay including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, infections, and respiratory conditions. The findings appeared this week in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
A research team at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health learned especially women who look on the bright side of life are more likely to live longer than their gloomy counterparts. Lead author Eric Kim noted the American healthcare system is more concerned about diseases and less focused on the factors that can improve health. Kim thinks that one of those factors is plain optimism.
The study’s results are in line with past research which had found a statistically significant link between optimism and less likelihood of dying from heart disease and stroke. Kim’s team found that optimism can have many more health benefits especially for women. The team suggests a positive outlook in life directly influences how healthy our body is. Optimism can bring lipid levels down, can stave off inflammation and boost antioxidants levels.
Researchers based their study on data on tens of thousands of elderly women (abve age 70) available in the Nurses’ Health Study. The survey tracked 70,000 women’s health for nearly one decade. Chan School researchers discovered that a healthy attitude towards life can boost longevity more than a healthy diet or exercising can. In addition, the team sifted through the National Death Index to see whether the causes of death of these nurses was directly influenced by their optimism.
Co-author of the study Kaitlin Hagan disclosed that one of the strongest agents that can keep us going many years ahead is gratitude. She recommends a simple exercise to become aware of the things you should really be grateful for:
“Try writing down three things you’re grateful for, whether that’s people, relationships, or activities you love.”
Hagan also recommends cognitive behavioral therapy to people struggling with depression along with hope therapy and mindfulness meditation. She explained that for improving mood and gaining a positive outlook on things, we should train hard just like in weight loss.
Other experts agree that we should practice optimism every day. They also give out simple tips to prevent being locked in a negative mindset:
- You should learn to let go of things that you feel are holding you back or simply ruin your day.
- If you are having a bad period you shouldn’t feel discouraged. Remember there is a silver lining to nearly everything and setbacks happen often ahead of real success.
- Forget about the past. Experts point out that there is no creativity in the past. The only thing past can do is to repeat itself. So, it is important to let it go for you to have a great future.
- Make a list of the things you feel thankful for and take a look at that list whenever you are about to slip into negativity.
- And last but not least, ditch the so-called toxic people, whom you feel are holding you back or even hurting you emotionally. It is important to surround yourself with supportive people.
Study authors hope their findings could convince workers in the healthcare business to embrace optimism and recommend it to their patients. They argue that having a positive attitude towards life’s events not only helps us live longer but also better.
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