Do you want to live after 90? Smile and be optimistic, says new research

Smile, be optimistic and live until you turn 90, shows a new study published Wednesday, June 9 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Higher levels of optimism are associated with a longer life and a greater chance of becoming centenarians, according to a new study of nearly 160,000 women of different races and backgrounds.

Healthy lifestyle factors such as dietary quality, physical activity, body mass index (BMI), smoking and alcohol consumption accounted for less than a quarter of the association between longevity and optimism.

Examination

“While optimism itself may be shaped by social structural factors, our results suggest that the benefits of long-term optimism may be extended to racial and ethnic groups,” said lead author Hayami Koga, a postdoc student at Harvard TH. Chan School of Public Health.

“Optimism can be an important long-term intervention goal in many groups,” Koga added.

This is not the first study to find a strong link between longevity and looking on the bright side of life.

A 2019 study showed that men and women with the highest levels of optimism had an average life expectancy of 11% to 15% longer than people who practiced slightly positive thinking.

In fact, the highest-scoring optimists were more likely to be 85 years or older.

The results were true, according to the study, even when socioeconomic status, health conditions, depression, smoking, social engagement, poor diet and alcohol consumption were considered.

Optimistic

Optimism does not mean ignoring the stressors of life, experts say. But when negative things happen, optimistic people are less likely to blame themselves and more likely to see the obstacle as temporary or even positive.

Optimists also believe that they have control over their destiny and can create opportunities for good things to happen in the future.

Being optimistic also improves your health, studies show. Previous research has, among other things, found a direct connection between optimism and healthier diet and exercise habits as well as better heart health, stronger immune system, better lung function and lower risk of mortality.

How to be optimistic

Studies have found that only about 25% of our optimism is programmed by our genes. The rest is up to us and how we respond to life’s lemons.

If you are more likely to get angry when you are stressed, do not despair. It turns out that you can train your brain to be more positive.

One of the most effective ways to increase optimism is called the “Best Me Possible” method, according to a meta-analysis of existing studies.

In this intervention, you imagine yourself in a future where you have reached all your life goals and all your problems have been solved.

Exercise

Start writing in 15 minutes about the details you have achieved and spend five minutes imagining what that reality looks and feels like. Practicing this daily can significantly improve your positive emotions, experts say.

In a 2011 study, students did the best possible self-exercise for 15 minutes once a week for eight weeks. Not only did they feel more positive, the emotions lasted for about six months.

Another way to boost optimism is to keep a diary dedicated only to the positive experiences you had that day. Over time, this focus on the positive can reshape your perspective, experts say.

Spending a few minutes each day writing down what makes you grateful can also improve your outlook on life. Several studies have shown that practicing gratitude improves positive coping skills, breaks the typical negative thinking style, and replaces optimism. Counting blessings even reduced problem behaviors in teens.

Like exercise, optimism exercises need to be practiced regularly to keep the brain’s positive outlook in good shape, experts say. But is a longer, happier and more positive life not worth the effort?

With information from CNN International

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