You want longevity. A life of happiness and vigor. We can relate. Because, really, who wouldn’t want these things? The problem is that the many ups and downs of life can make these goals seem like little more than pipe dreams. But what if we told you that living a longer, more vibrant life could be achieved—in great measure—by simply cultivating a positive attitude? And what if we told you that more and more research is suggesting that this is anything but a pipe dream?
Interested? Then read on to discover how the power of positive thinking can help you achieve the happiness, vigor, and longevity you desire.
Attitude Is Everything
You already have the power to starve your negative experiences of too much attention. Because it’s your mental attitude that determines whether negative thoughts from these experiences snowball into something worse. In other words, if bad things are destined to happen—after all, it’s just a natural part of the human experience—you can control how you respond.
Consider the concept of locus of control.
This phrase, taken from personality psychology, refers to the degree to which we believe we have control over our own lives.
A study in the Review of European Studies measured the impact of locus of control on the level of subjective well-being of study participants. Researchers found that a significant relationship exists between an individual’s locus of control expectancy—or expectation of being in control—and their level of happiness.
Specifically, they found that people with high levels of self-confidence and belief in their ability to create positive change feel more contented in their daily lives. But they also found that a balanced approach was important too. It appears that people experience less happiness when they hold on too tightly to control, lack trust in others, and can’t accept that bad situations are a natural part of life.
Recognizing that you have ultimate control over your attitude and outlook doesn’t just help you feel better overall. By consistently practicing positive thinking, you may be able to live a longer life as well.
The Science of Longevity
Studies of centenarians have found that the power of positive thinking is not just a tired cliché. On the contrary, a positive attitude may just be the best way to ensure a long life.
For example, the annual 100@100 surveys conducted by UnitedHealthcare have consistently found that looking on the bright side and maintaining a positive state of mind are essential to a long and happy life. In fact, the 2015 survey of 100 people over the age of 100 found that:
- 61% view themselves as “very positive” people
- 84% think laughing and having a sense of humor are important to healthy aging
What’s more, centenarians rank having a positive attitude (25%) as more critical to overall good health than both eating a healthy diet (21%) and getting regular exercise (10%). Finally—and this may seem a bit counterintuitive—almost half of all respondents said that maintaining a positive attitude gets easier with age.
In addition, a study out of Yale University found that people with a positive view of aging live an average of 7-1/2 years longer than those with more negative attitudes.
So how do you resist negative feelings and keep the positive thoughts flowing? While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there are some practical steps you can take that will help you develop and maintain a more positive outlook.
Developing a Positive Attitude
Becoming a more positive person doesn’t have to be an exercise in futility. Like most things in life, all it takes is a little commitment to personal development and some old-fashioned hard work.
So in this proactive spirit, we now offer up some practical steps you can take to cultivate a positive attitude and increase your longevity.
Drop Dead Weight
It’s difficult to be positive when negative people and situations are weighing you down. So dump them! Well, unless it’s a close relative or life event you can’t avoid, in which case, might we suggest you just do your best to guard your time and maintain perspective. Whatever you can do to limit the time you spend giving energy to the people and situations that only drag you down will not only reduce stress but will also add to your happiness.
Dropping dead weight becomes much easier when you begin to honor yourself. Far from coming from a place of selfishness, honoring yourself means respecting and loving yourself enough to do what’s right for your highest good. When you learn to do that, the dead weight in your life will naturally begin to fall away, and you’ll attract the people and situations that contribute to a healthier and happier life.
Let’s be honest. Most of us tend to take things for granted. It doesn’t matter if it’s the greatest job, the closest family, or the best health, we rarely take a moment to be thankful for what we have. So whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime vacation or simply a beautiful wildflower that catches your eye, take a moment to stop and really appreciate it.
Positive affirmations can be a useful tool for encouraging more positive behaviors. By repeating a chosen set of positive words several times throughout the day, you can reprogram self-sabotaging thoughts. What makes this approach so user-friendly (and effective) is both its simplicity and the ease of molding the technique to suit your individual preference. After all, since you’re saying your affirmations in front of an audience of one, there’s no need to dress them up. Just focus on the changes you want to see in your life, compose a few succinct phrases that are easy to remember and worded as if the change has already taken place (such as I have... or I am...), and repeat as often as you like. The more you practice this simple technique—and believe in what you’re saying—the more positive your life will be.
Get a Hobby
In an ongoing study from the University of California Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND), researchers have discovered that people who spend at least 2 hours a day engaged in a hobby are 21% less likely to die early. So if you already have a hobby, keep at it. And if you’ve always wanted one but didn’t think you had the time, indulge yourself. You may just be adding years to your life and added enjoyment to your years.
Just like having a hobby, finding time to have fun is a must for longevity. After all, when you’re having fun, you’re living in the present moment—a place where regrets regarding the past and worries for the future don’t exist. What’s more, having fun releases powerful feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and have some fun!
Get a Pet
Few things keep you more present-focused and positive than having a pet. And there’s actually data to prove it. In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association of people who had pets and those who didn’t, it was found that people with pets had greater levels of physical and psychological well-being—including improved self-esteem—than their counterparts without pets.
When you practice mindfulness—the nonjudgmental awareness of your thoughts, internal sensations, surroundings, etc.—whether by engaging in meditation or by simply enjoy a relaxing, thoughtful walk in the woods, you’re focused on the present moment and fully engaged with life. And just like having fun, mindfulness pulls you away from negative emotions like regret and worry and brings a sense of connectedness that can improve your overall well-being.
No matter how old you are, practicing just a few of these techniques on a daily basis can help train your brain to look at life in a more positive way. And as we’ve seen, cultivating a positive attitude may just be the key to a long and fulfilling life.