According to a new study by the Women’s Health Initiative, women who have a more positive attitude had a 14 percent less chance of dying of any disease, a 9 percent lower chance of getting heart disease and a higher chance of living longer than women who were more pessimistic. Women who were pessimistic had a 16 percent more chance of dying than their optimistic sisters. Optimism has been thought for many years to be a reason some people live longer than others. In fact, women live longer than men on average anyway, and optimistic women live even longer.
I’m actually not surprised about the findings of the study. I come from a family who is very optimistic. We all tend to laugh at misfortune, expect the best (even if the worst does sometimes happen) and surprisingly (or not!) everyone in my family seems to have pretty happy lives. We also live quite a long time too. My grandfather died in his early 80s of lung cancer but, as he’d been a smoker for many years, he lived much longer than most smokers do – probably something to do with his optimistic attitude. My great-grandmother lived into her mid-80s and my grandmothers were between 85 and 88 when they died. Up until the day they died, they were both laughing about their misfortune and planning on what they would do when they recovered – a chance neither of them got but, if I’m 88 and still have that attitude, I’ll count myself lucky too.
My parents have both just turned 70 and continue to have good health. They travel abroad a lot, they exercise a lot, they spend time with friends, they really enjoy their lives and they laugh a lot. In fact, one year I traveled to Thailand with my parents and our tour guide told me he’d never seen a family that laughed so much. I expect my parents to live well into their 90s and beyond, and will be very surprised if they don’t. They love their lives so much and take care of themselves so well, that optimism is just a way of life for them.
As for me, I’ve always been optimistic. Even when my fiance died the day before our wedding, after a short period of mourning, I simply got on with my life. I probably have to thank my grandparents and parents for that as they always taught me not to dwell on the bad things, but move onto the good.
Since then, I’ve moved to Thailand and again, love my life and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Sure, some days are worse than others, but even on bad days, they’re not that bad. There’s always something really wonderful happens, even if it’s only one of my students bringing me a cookie or a nice word from my boss.
As the Women’s Health Initiative study shows, being optimistic will get you a long way in life. Doctors think that being optimistic affects the way you deal with things and especially with stress. Stress can be a killer – literally – but if you deal with it in a calm, unworried way, you’ve much less chance of it damaging your health.
The study also shows that women who are optimistic in life usually exercise more, eat healthier foods and take care of themselves better; three more reasons why they likely live longer than those who are pessimistic.
So, if you want to live a longer, healthier life and feel you’re not as optimistic as you should be – change your attitude! Being more positive is just a frame of mind, and anyone can choose to look for the good instead of the bad. Believe me, you’ll feel better and, like the Women’s Health Initiative study says, you’ll live longer too.
SOURCES: Everyday Health – Optimism Good for Heart and Longevity