Last Month’s Poll: Do you think looking on the bright side could add years to your life?
Most of you are optimistic, which is good because having a positive attitude can add up to 7.5 years to your life.
Recent research from an American university indicates that having a positive attitude about aging may actually prolong life by 7.5 years.
“This is fascinating,” says Dr. David Conn, Vice President of Education and Chief of Psychiatry at Baycrest. “Although this study looked at positive attitude about aging specifically, it shows that if you’re an optimist, you may have, in many ways, a better prognosis and future.”
The study takes a new approach in that it examines positive factors that can influence survival. Much of the research on longevity focuses on negative factors such as disease, injury and cognitive decline.
“The results are important because the impact of a positive attitude on aging appears to be greater than other measures—such as low blood pressure and cholesterol—which increase life span on average four years or less,” explains Dr. Nasreen Khatri, Baycrest clinical psychologist, clinician leader of the Mood and Related Disorders Clinic, who also leads Baycrest’s Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Program.
The study showed that those with more positive perceptions of aging at the beginning of the study lived longer. In other words, those individuals who had a positive attitude toward aging, long before they began aging, benefitted the most.
“It is important to participate in enjoyable activities and find meaningful pursuits throughout life,” adds Dr. Conn. “A positive attitude in life includes: a positive attitude about oneself —believing in oneself—and a positive attitude about the world in general and the people around you; being able to appreciate the little things in life; and having a positive approach to the future, expecting that things will turn out ok.”
What can you do to improve your attitude about aging?
Dr. Khatri suggests the following:
- Start early and make changes that will keep you healthy, both mentally and physically.
- Find someone who is having a positive aging experience and learn from them.
- Find meaningful goals and interests that outlive your career so that you are not bored after retirement.
- Develop a sense of purpose — things such as spirituality or volunteer work, or even small things such as reading the newspaper every morning or going for a walk with a friend.
- Build a social support network and nourish relationships because these are important as we age.
- Take care of your body by exercising and eating well. Exercise is very good for mind, body and mood. Fruits, vegetables and omega-3 help us stay physically and mentally fit.
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