The short answer is YES, a bad attitude can literally shave years off your life, and of course, it can very easily take the life out of your years.
On the other hand, a growing body of research is now linking optimism with a variety of health benefits, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease — which is the number one killer in the industrialized world — and several other chronic degenerative diseases.
Looking for proof? Check this out…
In a recent meta-analysis of 15 studies (basically, the study of studies) with almost 230,000 participants, optimism was associated with a whopping 35% reduction in cardiovascular events and a 14% reduction in death from all causes.
To put it into perspective, the impact of optimism on preventing cardiovascular disease is well beyond the results that can be obtained by statin drugs (and any other drug for that matter) for the majority of people.
Optimism also contributes to “exceptional longevity”, which is what researchers refer to as living past 85 years of age.
Of course, these link between optimism and improved health span is based on observational data. In other words, these are just correlations, and the research does not provide evidence for causation.
Be that as it may, there’s very good reason to believe that a causal relationship between optimism and living an overall awesome, health life indeed exists. Consider, for example:
- Pessimists tend to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to optimists.
- Pessimists tend to have higher levels of markers of inflammation compared to optimists.
- Pessimists are less likely to engage in health-promoting behaviors than optimists.
- Pessimists, in the face of adversity, tend to be less resilient than optimists.
Although conventional wisdom tells us that we’re either born a pessimist or optimist and there’s not much we can do about it, recent research on neuroplasticity has shown this simply isn’t true. In other words, it is possible to cultivate optimism and an overall positive outlook — even if you tend to be more pessimistic.
How? Here are some tips:
- Start your day off right doing, saying or believing one thing that can set you up for a positive day out of the gates.
- Focus on applying a positive outlook to a single area of life at a time.
- Laugh more and quit taking life — and yourself — so seriously.
- Move more and exercise regularly.
- Connect with friends, especially those who are positive minded.
- Make time for more play, adventure, exploration and experimentation.
- Be a problem solver not just a problem pointer-outer.
- Be grateful.
- Focus on positive outcomes.
- Smile more.