Want to add years to your lifespan and squeeze more into your life? You're not alone. Researchers are constantly on the hunt for ways we can increase our longevity, and they have come up with some pretty surprising findings. To help pave the way for a longer life, check out these seven unexpected things that increase your lifespan.
Smiling in photographs
Next time someone asks you to smile for the camera, it may be wise to heed their advice if you want to live a longer life. A study by researchers at Wayne State University studied photos of former professional baseball players and found that the bigger their smile, the longer they lived. In fact, those players with the biggest smiles amassed an average of seven more years than those with none. It is believed that this is because big smiles in photographs reflect true happiness, which is beneficial for both your physical and mental wellbeing.
Having 'positive' initials
While you may not give much thought to your initials, a surprising study by researchers at the University of California has revealed that having initials that spell out positive words (such as ACE, WOW or VIP) could add years on to your life. The study found that men with positive initials lived 4.48 years longer while men with initials that spelled out negative words died 2.8 years younger. Having negative initials most significantly seemed to impact on deaths with psychological components such as suicides and accidents, although there was a noticed increase in longevity in almost all disease categories for those with positive initials.
If you're lucky enough to have found the guy or girl of your dreams, research suggests that taking the next step and getting married could add years on to your lifespan. Being in love has many reported health benefits. In fact, researchers at the University of Rochester reported that a good marriage can be as beneficial for your heart as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing high blood pressure. Multiple research studies and statistics have backed this up, showing that those who are married live longer than singletons, generally due to the fact that they have a higher income and experience less social isolation.
Being slightly overweight
While poor diets and obesity are bad news for your health, research has suggested that slightly overweight people actually live longer than those of normal weight, and significantly longer than those who are obese or excessively thin. However, David Feeny, who led one of the surprising research studies, has warned that this does not mean that normal weight people should attempt to gain weight to increase their lifespan. Experts explain that although being bigger may add a few years on to your lifespan - perhaps due to it helping to safeguard against the weight loss and frailty that often incurs in old age - that does not mean that it will increase your quality of life.
Having religious beliefs
Multiple research studies have shown that believing in God - regardless of which faith you adhere to - could help to boost your health and increase your lifespan. A study involving liver transplant patients showed that those who had "strong religious connections" were up to three times more likely to survive, even if they did not attend church. Research results published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences also showed that people who attended regular religious services were 46 percent less likely to die during the six-year study. Experts believe that this may be due to increased social ties, less risky behaviour and also the increased ability to cope with stress.
Being a social butterfly
Healthy living can sometimes seem like hard work and it seems to be rare that the things we love are good for us. However, if you want a fun way to boost your health, take note: research suggests that making regular plans with your friends can help you to live longer by reducing feelings of depression, stress and risky behaviour, and encouraging you to look after your health. In fact, a study by Brigham Young University found that having a good social network boosts your survival chances by 50 per cent, while having few friends affects you longevity as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Whether you're having a giggle with friends or watching a funny movie, laughter is guaranteed to boost your mood and leave you feeling great. However, the benefits of laughter go way beyond that. Studies have found a multitude of ways in which laughter boosts your health, including lowering blood pressure levels, reducing bad cholesterol, enhancing the immune system and helping blood vessels to function better. A seven year study in Norway also found that those who laughed most often in everyday life were 35 per cent less likely to die during the study period.
Check out these 5 fun diet and fitness alternatives for more surprising ways to boost your health.