Want To Live Longer? Looking On The Bright Side Of Life Could Help

Optimists live longer than those who see the glass as half empty.
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Monty Python advised us to always look on the bright side of life - and now a new study has found seeing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty could help you live longer.

Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine linked optimism and prolonged lifespan, following an extensive study of tens of thousands of people.

People who believe good things will happen in the future were more likely to have “exceptional longevity”, which means living beyond 85. Currently, the average life expectancy has stalled in the UK at 79 for men and 82 for women.

Researchers found those who are optimists had a lifespan between 11-15% longer than the least optimistic groups. These results were maintained even when accounting for other factors such as economic demographic, education or disease.

Research has long focused on risk factors associated with disease and death but much less is known about positive factors that may affect ageing. Following this study, researchers said optimists may find it easier to control their emotions and be protected from the effects of stress.

“Optimism is one such psychosocial asset that has the potential to extend the human lifespan..."”

The study used two existing groups of people who had been recruited for different studies, a total of 69,744 women and 1,500 men. It studied the women for 10 years and the men for 30 years.

At the beginning of the study, they were surveyed about their lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking and alcohol as well as their level of optimism.

Lewina Lee, one of the paper authors, said: “[This study] suggests optimism is one such psychosocial asset that has the potential to extend the human lifespan. Interestingly, optimism may be modifiable using relatively simple techniques or therapies.”

Although the results were obvious, the scientists were less clear about why exactly optimistic people are likely to live longer.

They suggested it might be because they bounce back from stressful situations and difficulties more effectively, as well as taking part in healthier habits such as exercise or drinking less, which may contribute.

Stress also impacts on the immune system so there is a possibility optimists cope better with infections and ill health.

How can I be more optimistic?

As Lee says, there are some relatively simple techniques and therapies that have been shown to help increase positivity in daily life.

Writing a daily gratitude journal. Spending 20 minutes a day jotting down positive experiences and thoughts - “anything from being moved by a good book, painting or piece of music, to falling in love” - may be enough to decrease stress levels, and increase positivity, according to Michael Smith, Associate Professor of Psychology at Northumbria University.

Speaking to yourself more kindly. It’s so easy to spiral rapidly into a negative thought cycle. We’ve all been there. Instead try to engage in uplifting conversations with yourself using positive affirmations and positive words. We’re often crueler to ourselves than we ever would be to other people.

Trying to think of every option before rushing to conclusions. As the study suggests a lot of optimism is believing a situation will turn out okay in the end rather than going straight for the worst outcome. Try to be calmer in your responses and take 10 seconds before responding.