There’s good reason to be cheerful. Several recent studies say optimists live longer. In the past, we have written about how optimism can aid heart health. But, overall longevity is boosted by having a sunny outlook.
Research spanning 30 years and including more than 70,000 participants found that optimists live significantly longer. Optimistic women live an average of 14.9 percent longer than their pessimistic counterparts. Optimistic men live 10.9 percent longer than their peers. The researchers believe that optimists may handle stress better, work on long-term goals more and avoid unhealthy habits.
Another study with 160,000 women from different backgrounds and races found that optimists lived longer and had the best chance of living past 90. The researchers in that study also considered healthy habits and lifestyle. They found that diet, exercise, weight, smoking and alcohol use accounted for less than a fourth of the extra years of life.
“Although optimism itself may be patterned by social structural factors, our findings suggest that the benefits of optimism for longevity may hold across racial and ethnic groups,” said lead author Hayami Koga, a postdoctoral student at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Optimism may be an important target of intervention for longevity across diverse groups.”
A different study of 233 men taking place over 22 years found that optimists handle stress better and have stronger immune systems. “Optimistic people handle daily stress more constructively and therefore enjoy better emotional well-being,” Dr. Lewina Lee, a study author and clinical psychologist at the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. “Stress is known to have a negative impact on our health. By looking at whether optimistic people handle day-to-day stressors differently, our findings add to knowledge about how optimism may promote good health as people age.”
Dr. Lee added, “A more optimistic thought does not mean being Pollyanna-ish or ignoring risks, which is a common misconception about optimism. It may involve acknowledging our strengths, past examples of success, and areas over which we have control, so that we can arrive at a more positive and confident outlook.”
All these findings might lead you to fret if you’re not an optimist. But you shouldn’t. You can learn to be more optimistic. You can train yourself by writing down your goals and what you have accomplished for 15 minutes, then imagine a future where you have achieved your goals for five minutes. Doing this daily can cultivate positive feelings and an optimistic outlook on your life.
Living your life with that attitude can be healthier as it allows you to move on from problems faster, get more done in your day, sleep better and have an overall better time. When you have a positive outlook, you can enjoy your time more and live with less stress is key to a healthier life!