Bright New Year

An Asian grandmother and granddaughter burn sparklers in the against the background of a Christmas tree.

There’s been some great news just in time for our New Year’s resolutions: Research confirms the link between optimism and longevity! For everyone.

Previous research focused on white, non-Hispanic women had shown a relationship between optimism (or a hopeful confidence about the future) and healthier aging.  Although limited, the findings associated a 15% greater lifespan for optimistic people. Regardless of behaviors, both female and male participants with the highest optimism levels had greater odds of living to age 85.

Newer research has confirmed the connection between optimism and longevity with a more varied group. For one study, over 150,000 women aged 50-79 from diverse backgrounds, including non-Hispanic White, Black, Hispanic/Latina, and Asian, took an optimism test and provided health information. The most optimistic among the participants lived an average of 4.4 years longer and  were more likely to live to the exceptional longevity age of 90. Another study looked to see if reducing stress explained the link between optimism and a longer life. Researchers found that men who were more optimistic experienced fewer negative emotions. Optimism may benefit health and well-being because it is linked to reduced exposure to stress.

The best news is the reminder that optimism is a state of mind that we can choose. Importantly, optimism does not mean hiding aways from the facts of life. As researcher Hayami Koga, MD, explains, “Most research suggests that individuals who are more optimistic are not unrealistic.”

What are some ways to choose optimism?

  • Establish healthy boundaries with others. You may need to restrict time with dire pessimists who always drain your energy. Likewise for media sources that only seem to bring sadness and anger.
  • Reframe overly negative thoughts. It’s normal to sometimes imagine the worst. When that happens, pause to reflect and question how realistic the bad outlook you imagine is.
  • Share the positive. A great way to make yourself feel great is to help others feel good. So, make an effort to share praise, appreciation, and compliments with those in your life, from close family to work colleagues. Don’t forget to include yourself in that list!
  • Believe in a better future. Without a vision, it’s hard to imagine the possibilities. Dreaming and documenting an optimistic future can improve your overall outlook.
  • Have gratitude. The old adage about taking time to smell the flowers sums it up nicely. Appreciating the small (and big!) things that make life worth living provides an instant boost.

Invest in optimism, and regardless of any resolutions, you can have a bright new year. 

Sources: NIA; NIH; VeryWell Mind; WebMD.

Categories: Aging, Aging Well