Life sure can have its ups and downs, but it looks like maintaining a strong sense of optimism could actually benefit your health in the longterm. According to a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), positive thinking can help your health in your later years. Who knows — positive thinking could just be the key to immortality. I’m kidding, of course (or am I?)
The study, conducted by Professor Andrew Steptoe and Dr Daisy Fancourt, analysed data collated between 2012 and 2016 from over 7,000 adults over the age of 50 as part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), as described by University College London.
When asked “to what extent they felt the things they did in their life were worthwhile,” participants were instructed to rate their answer on a scale from one to ten. Researchers found that those who rated higher lived life significantly better. From walking faster to sleeping well, those with a positive attitude exuded it in both mind and body.
Having an optimistic outlook on life has plenty of other benefits too, including an improvement on your ability to cope with stress, can boost your immunity, and can even lead to an increased lifespan, according to Verywell Mind.
Taking other aspects of a participants life into account, the study was also able to determine that those who had higher ratings kept their lives pretty busy, surrounding themselves with strong relationships, socialising, and exercising. Participants who rated lower were “twice as likely to develop depressive symptoms,” and were also linked with living on their own and feeling overwhelmingly lonely.
“As more and more men and women live longer, we need to understand better what factors lead to healthier and happier older age,” Steptoe explained. “This is a two-way process. Not only do good social relationships and better health contribute to our sense that we are living meaningful lives, but this sense of meaning sustains social and cultural activity, health and wellbeing in the future.”
Even though this study focuses on those aged over 50, that doesn’t mean that those in their thirties, twenties, or even teens can’t adopt a more positive outlook on life. I mean, starting early is always the best thing in my book, especially if it can improve your health and mental wellbeing.
And even if you’re introverted or have mental health issues like depression, you can gain positivity from literally anything. For me, it’s always the little things like immersing myself in video games or just spending time with my family.
“We do not know what activities the participants in this study thought were worthwhile,” Fancourt explained. “For some it might be supporting their families, for others a particular accomplishment in their work or hobby, enjoying nature or perhaps following a favourite sports team. What is important is that the individual finds these activities worthwhile and feels like they give a sense of meaning to life.”
If you want to start living your life to the optimistic full, here’s some advice. Pick one thing your absolutely passionate about, and fit it into your daily routine. Even if you’re having a rough day, it’ll be there to pick you up and spin your mind back into the positive.