The expectation that good things will happen can be key to long life.
People who are optimistic are more likely to reach "extraordinary longevity" or live to the age of 85 or more, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This relationship is present in both sexes and has remained in place, even after researchers have reported smoking, alcohol use, physical activity, diet, BMI and depression.
"Our team was surprised and reassured to see similar results in men and women," says Levina Lee, a psychiatry assistant at Boston University School of Medicine, today.
"We know that optimism is about 25% hereditary, which means that there is room for modification [it]. "
The study is based on data from 69,744 women in the Nurses Health Study and 1
Women who have been following since 1976 completed optimism a ssession in 2004. The questionnaire asked how strongly they agreed with statements such as "In uncertain times I usually expect the best" or "I am always optimistic about my future."
Men who have been followed since 1961 completed a similar type of optimism scale in 1986.
The researchers then divided the two groups into groups based on their levels of optimism – the highest, lowest and those among them – and looked at their mortality statistics. For both men and women, higher levels of optimism are associated with living longer and with a greater chance of reaching the age of 85.
Being in the group with the most positive prospects is associated with an 11-15% longer life span than the least optimistic group, the study found. The results suggest that optimism can be an important strategy for promoting healthy aging, the authors wrote.
Scientists do not fully understand the paths from optimism to health and longevity, Lee said, but there are some theories.
Optimistic people are more likely to have goals and confidence to achieve them, so optimism can help people develop and maintain healthier habits, she said. Previous studies have found that people who are highly optimistic are less likely to die prematurely of stroke, heart disease and even cancer.
Optimistic people can also be better at regulating their emotions during stressful situations. They are less likely to be angry or agitated, said Josh Clapow, a clinical psychologist and behavioral scientist at the University of Alabama's School of Public Health in Birmingham.
"Not optimistic people don't get stressed or angry, but this happens less often," said Klapou, who did not participate in the study. "So physiologically, this puts them at less risk for all the negative effects we know from stress."
They are also more likely to form social bonds because they see the good in people, he added. They protect such relationships from the loneliness that comes with its own serious health risks.
Some people are naturally born to be more pessimistic, but it's absolutely possible for them to learn how to be more positive, Klapou said.
"This does not mean telling yourself to be happy," he noted.
"We can be sad and hopeful; we can be sad and look toward a better future. These are the things that have protective factors for us. "
How to strengthen your positive thinking:
- Maintain a daily practice of gratitude: Keep a journal of gratitude and record three or more things for which you are grateful for your life at the end of each day. This can be a supportive spouse, healthy children, a sunny day or an engaging job.
- Keep track of the positive events in your life: Record three or more positive events that happened that day each night. Maybe your boss made an encouraging comment, you should spend time with your friends, or the trip was surprisingly good.
- Visualize your best self: Imagine regularly and clearly a future in which everything has turned out, as well as possible, and you have achieved all your life goals.
Studies have found that such daily exercises redirect your brain to the search for the positive.
"We spend a lot of time searching the world for things that can hurt us or things that have gone wrong that we don't want to happen again," said Klapov.
"So force your brain to look for the things you are grateful for and the positive things teach your brain that we can avoid the negative ones and look for the positive. " on health news and features. Previously, she was a writer, producer, and editor at CNN.