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Optimism Leads to a Longer Life

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Who knew just how powerful positive thinking can be? Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have determined that optimists live longer, healthier lives than pessimists. A new study looked at death and disease rates of women ages 50 and over. They found that women who were optimistic (expecting good things to happen instead of bad) were 14 percent less likely to die from any cause than pessimists after eight years of follow up in the study.

Optimists also were less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes or smoke cigarettes, while pessimists were 23 percent more likely to die from cancer. Although the study doesn't prove that negative attitudes cause negative health problems, the results appear to be linked in some way.

We all know someone who looks at the glass half empty instead of half full. Maybe that's even you sometimes. But do you notice how those attitudes can start to bring you down and make you feel bad- physically and mentally? Do you notice that you're more successful when you focus on the things you can do instead of what you can't do? When you celebrate the small victories even though you haven't reached your final goal? Do you believe that if you change your thoughts, you can change your life?

How do you try to be an optimist in your own life? How do you deal with the pessimists? Do you try to change their way of thinking, or do you just let them be?

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I only have to look at my family for the answer. . . My positive and happy mom is 85 years old and still going strong. Many of her grouchy, negative peers have passed on or are in very poor health. I take my clue from her! Report
I have a blue and red book in which I write what's good (red) about my day and what's been bad (blue). I find that when the page is mostly red, I forget to write! But that's okey--I'll write again when my glass is empty! I find that I'm writing a lot less frequently now and my anxieties are down! It's a wonderful world! and a great life!!! Report
Absolutely I believe our thoughts affect EVERY aspect of our lives. The bible is the first book to publish that...teaching us to think on good things. HMMM not a new study there. :) Report
I have eliminated people with negative attitudes from my list of friends. Cannot keep my own spirits up surrounded by people whoi delight in finding fault with everything. Sounds harsh but it is my own self preservation and positive attitude I am protecting! Report
I always think of how things could be worse, than whatever is facing me looks better and kepps my spirits up. Also hang out with upbeat not toxic people. Report
i find this interesting and to be true to a point..think about it, a happy positive person has less stress, wereas a pessimist is always thinging about something negative and is therefore have been proven that stress leads to declined health...ergo pessimism would lead to declined health....this is not to say that a person can never have a pessimist moment, we all do, it is saying that we should activly work towards a better outlook.
My DH is in this situation..he was unemployed for 7 months and has just started a new job (that he loves), but he is 40 this month and fells that he should not be "starting out" on a new job this late in life...all the above stresses him(which he does not handle well) and therefore cause a snippy attitude and some anger to come out of him,.....thankfully he sees this and is getting help to cope. Report
it is true you can change. i was once pessimistic because a lot of bad things happened to me when i was younger,things i had no control over. so i was bitter for a lot of years and looked at my life as being filled with more doom and gloom to come. i couldn't find the sunshine no matter how hard i tried. then someone sent me a letter, he said may the rest of your life be filled with joy my since he was intelligent and a lot of people looked up to him ,i thought you know he could be right. since that day i have been an optimist in every way. i feel healthier and happier.yeah bad things still happen to me but i can see the good side now.i try to spread my cheer with others. so not only can you change but you can change others. Report
I am happy today. I hope to be happy tomorrow. If I'm not, I know that I can be. This would be a very boring world if everyone was the same. Report
I'm pretty darned optimistic about my life. I find that real pessimists think that I am annoying and so they don't stay around me for very long. If someone is just going through a pessimistic phase then I remember that moods are contageous and I put my most consistent optimist face on. Sometimes it helps the one who is struggling. Report
I try to be optimistic all the time. These days I do a god job, although there have been times in my life that I had difficulty doing that. The people on my mother's side of the family lived to very old age, because, I think, they were the most optimistic people I have ever seen.

Whenever I encounter a pessimist, I usually say something cheerful. That's about all I can do, unless it's someone I know well enough to talk with. Report
Sometimes I have to catch myself, but I would definitely say I am more of an optimist. I wasn't always, but I made it a conscious choice and now it comes second nature. My life has definitely turned around for the better in every way possible, since I've changed my thinking. I absolutely believe that we manifest what we focus on. Report
I agree with the article and attribute my general good health to my positive outlook on life. Report
Great blog !!! need to work on it !!! don't worry be happy !!! Report
My boss told me one day about 3 weeks ago that if I didn't lose the paranoid, what have I done, attitude - he was going to send me home without pay for a day. I put up posters in my office and in my email - Don't freak out today - Don't ask 'What Have I Done" - Ask "What Did HE Do" - He, with a capital "H" - As in the God I love and serve and will one day be with for ALL Eternity - it is amazing how my attitude has gone from negative to positive with only a few posted reminders. Report
Wonderful article. I agree with it 100%.....I've always been more of a optimist than a pessimist. Report
Whether by nature or nurture, my tendency has been to see the glass as half-empty. When I got divorced 9 years ago, I started working on my attitude towards life. I would say to myself, "I was growing bitter and depressed during my marriage, I'm not going through the pain of divorce to still end up bitter and depressed!" So I started looking for the good things in my life, and overall I'm more optimistic.

Something else I've done is to align myself with someone with a more positive attitude. My fiance has a happy disposition, and we laugh a lot. Even when he was going through cancer treatments, we found things to laugh about. Report
This was a good article. We all have a choice.....we can be happy or sad. Ever since I was a teenager, I have said things are going to happen...good or bad and we all decide how we are going to react ......who doesn't want to be happy?
So try to look for the positives and not the negatives....Life is not about waiting for the storms to's about learning to dance in the rain. So get out there and DANCE! Report
I definitely believe this is true. I have suffered with severe depression throughout my life. I am sure that the periods that were the blackest were the worst for my health. When things get that bleak, you just can't take care of yourself, everything from not brushing your teeth for days, not showering, not eating, and being unable to even get to the doctor for help. I am back on my medication now and plan to never let myself get to that hopeless stage again. Report
I have never in my life been an optimist. Since I have joined Spark People and started making changes in my life I have been doing my best to look at things more positively. I do admit I that I fall beck into my pessimistic ways at times, but I don't stay there long. Report
I have always tried to be an optimist. It isn't always easy I have herniated disks in my back and chronic pain and am not always able to do what I would like to each day but I am learning to do what I can and leave the rest until tomorrow.

Don't worry. Be happy :) Report
Revserena, excellent entry. So true. Choose your response to what life throws at you. Friends, and sometimes family, help a lot. A sounding board is so helpful. Report
I'm an optimist, I always look towards the positive. In my troublesome situations I say to myself, "it could have been worse." I get back up, dust myself off, and move forward. Report
I'm a believer. Will it extend my life? Report
We create our happiness. My would is good. How's yours? Report
What we think about increases.
Energy is well spent to be "for" something..........
"Going toward something" is more efficient than "going away from something".
"Reframing" is an excellent tool when it's grounded in wholesome purpose. Report
My Mom always said to "put a smile on your face and a song in your heart!" when I was being a grumpy kid. It really does work, though, and it affects others around you. Being able to make someone else happy makes me happier. :) Report
I stay in a positive mood. Report
I've always looked at the glass half full until being injured at work 10 yrs. ago. Since then, dealing w/chronic pain, traveling many miles for drs. to try and help and couldn't, it's taken a toll; however, I always remember the "High Hopes" (sorry I was born in the 50's - ha!) song sung by Frank Sinatra and it talks about a lil' ole ant who pushed over a rubber tree plant 'cause he had high hopes. In other words, ya gotta keep plugging, believing, persevering, especially with these hard economic times. I've let myself pull away, not deliberately, from friends who are optimists because I haven't wanted to "bring them down" due to no one wants to be around someone who's not shiny, bright, smiling, etc. So will make a concerted effort this yr. to reach out to friends I haven't been in touch with and who don't understand why I haven't called, seen them (I can't drive anymore, or even sit up for very long) even though it's hard when you're chronically depressed especially seeing the ones you love suffering depression. I know that our Lord has a plan for all of us, even us who have been laid off from work (both of us were) or are anxious about being laid off. HE will take care of you and HE can give you the Hope to sustain you. Don't forget HE knows the plans for you even before you get up each day! Take good care everyone and have a great, smiling week! If you have one day when it's sunny, just look up and see the clouds and marvel on the beauty of nature. If you're in the South, you are already seeing the blooming flowers/trees and can witness this - enjoy! Report
"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up."
Proverbs 12:24-26 Report
I have had alot of turmoil in my life and was never taught how to be optimistic. Till I joined Sparkpeople and met a dear friend/mentor who has taught me and is still teaching me to be optimistic. He ought to live forever as optimistic as he is. He ALWAYS has a smile and sees the glass half full. And just talking with him, his optimism always carries over to me. When I'm around negative (toxic) people, I get pulled down and I don't like that feeling at all, so I try to avoid that type of person whenever I can. Because I plan to live a long life being as optimistic as possible! Great article...I loved it! Thank you Jen! ~~Di~~ Report
We're going through a lot of transitions at work with downsizing, retirements, people going to other agencies, reduction-in-force (RIF's), etc. For those of us that are left, this means increase in workload. Upside is that we do still have a job. Current situation is causing stress and anger. I tell my friends, when we walk out the door for lunch or at the end of the day, what happens at work let's leave it there. I don't like to dwell on it and have it become a part of every conversation. If and when we lose our jobs, like I did, I just immediately think of what am I going to do next and put it in God's hands. I was blessed in that I found another position within the agency immediately, but there were others that the job search took a little longer. Often when we say we're praying for things to happen, we need to pray and let go! Report
I work with these two ladies and I call them Doom & Gloom. They we're transfered into my store 6 years ago when their's closed down. At least once a week they go around telling everyone that will listen that this one will be closing soon too. It put's everyone into a frenzy when they do it.
I just tell the to shut the H-up. Report
It takes less muscles to smile, than frown, so stop frowning. Report
Just try to smile, it takes less energy than a frown, and will brighten your day.

I promise. Report
I'm living proof of this. I had breast cancer, but instead of curling up in a ball in bed (my first reaction), I took on the attitude that it wasn't going to "get" me! Report
Do I notice how my negative thoughts and attitudes can tend to ‘bring me down?’

Yes… to the extent that they do become obsessive or otherwise detrimental at least…

Do I notice that I’m more successful when I focus on the things I can do instead of what I can’t do?

Of course. You sometimes have to recognize your limitations, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of what you can accomplish. And heck, sometimes just the fact that I’m working at something that is a challenge is an accomplishment in itself. After all, success easily achieved isn’t even a tiny fraction as commendable as persistence in the face of a real challenge. Success gained cheaply is vastly overrated in the US.

And yes, I believe that changing thoughts can change a life… I’m not sure it’s as easy though as just “deciding” to change thoughts; at best it takes extensive practice.

I try to tap into optimism in several ways. Mainly by trying to catch negative thinking and ‘reframe’ it, ‘turn it around,’ or ‘find the silver lining.’ Also focusing on successes and progress anywhere (even small) or focusing on the fact that the work or effort itself is of value, it can really help lighten moods and brighten attitudes.

As for how I deal with pessimists… well I deal with them the same way I deal with optimists… If I can’t influence them to change for the better, I take as much as I can stand with as much grace as I can then I avoid them like the plague. And yes… I include optimists, who can be equally as insufferable as pessimists. The thing about both types in their extremes… they are both completely intolerant of anyone who doesn’t emulate their giddy enthusiasm, or despairing gloom, whichever the case may be, and are never happy until everyone conforms.

Where as the worst pessimists may tend to suck the life and enthusiasm out of you… the worst optimists can be ruthlessly cold soul crushing tyrants insisting on constant smiles and laughter no matter what…

Do I try to change people or do I just let them be?

I try to remember to respect other people and what they feel and only try to offer what help I possibly may have to offer if it is welcome. I’m not perfect of course. I often try to give advice and help ‘fix’ problems when all someone really needed or wanted was someone to talk to, a sounding board. I try not to make that mistake. I try to remember to listen first, and I try to remember to respect other people and their right to feel what it is that they feel until they are ready themselves to feel something else.
I do believe that changing my thoughts can change my life. I've seen and experienced direct results from it! Thank you, Louise Hay and Wayne Dyer for starting me out on the path. Report
May I add this:

By chaning Your Thinking,
You change your beliefs;
When you change your beliefs,
You change your expectations;
When you change your expectations,
You change your attitude;
When you change your attitude,
You change your behavior;
When you change your behavior,
You change your performance;
When you change your performance;
You can change your life--
Author Unknown.... Report
Interesting! I AM an optomist, being a Christian, I KNOW who holds tomorrow! So no WORRYING!

This post made me think about a song Shirley Temple sang. "Be optomistic, don't ya be a dreamer".....

I had a patient last night, 83 yrs. has had MULTIPLE CANCERS of every system for the last 25 years. YET, she is still going, walking her treadmill for 30 minutes daily, seeing a personal trainer for an hour once a week.... I told her she was a TIMEX!!!!

Older ones here know that means "takes a lickin' and keeps on ticken'!"
That is the secret, not to let ANYTHING get ya down!!!! Report
On my own I am pretty much a mess. BUT, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me!" Report
One of my friends who refers to himself as a lifelong pessimist recently had a great moment of insight about his perpetually half full glass. Instead of always seeing the glass as half full, he just needed to change the size of the glass! This philosophy has helped me a lot, too. Report
I have been inspired by the words - spoken and written by Dr. Wayne Dyer who espouses a inpsired way of looking at the world and has even written a book "Change your thoughts change your life". If you need want to explore this topic more read his many books. Report
I'm a little bit of both. Depends on the day. :) Report
Interesting topic. I am an optimist. I work with Spec. Ed students some who have a lot of physical disabilities, so when I start to feel sorry for myself, I think of my kiddos and life is not so bad. Lately, I have been trying not to listen to the news, bad news sells, they make it sound like the world is ending. Report
I always try to see the silver lining in any clouds. I have a lot to live for and be thankful for. I try to help my coworkers and others see the good, too, instead of focusing on the problems we encounter. I have not usually had that same optimism for my weight, though. Probably because I've had so many failures from early years on in the area of "dieting." So, I refuse to diet any more. My goal is to make reasonable changes over time that result in healthier lifestyle (and in turn a lighter, more fit me). With the encouragement and accountability of SparkPeople, I am seeing more silver in my health life! I've been on track for a few months now. Not perfect, but since I'm not on a diet, I'm not "cheating" or "failing." I realize I make choices and my overall trend is healthier. Staying positive has been key for me. Report
I absolutely believe that optimism has a strong influence on how you live your life. I have seen it work in my own life. I have made it through a number of extremely challenging circumstances only to arrive on the other side in a better place emotionally and physically. When I start my downward thought process, I am acutely aware of how it makes me feel and work doubly hard to turn my thoughts to all the positives in my life and my hopes for the future. Or, I just go spend time with my grandkids! Wow, you want to feel loved and needed? That is the place to go for me. I agree also that a smile can work miracles. So grin your way through the day! Report
I am definitely more of a pessimist, and it's one thing I dislike about myself. My husband on the other hand is quite an optimist, and he's rubbing off on me quite a bit! I'm sure eating healthy, working out, and accomplishing my life goals have something to do with that as well. :-) Report
I've always been something of an optimist, and (thanks to some great genes - my father just turned 94; his mother died at 93) I have always expected to live well into my 90s as long as I stay healthy.

Once, when I was teaching a class of college freshmen, I asked how many expected to live to be 65 - almost all hands went up. I then upped the age to 70, and some hands went down, the same with 75 - nobody in the class expected to live beyond age 80!

We can pass our optimism and/or pessimism on to our children and to those we come in contact with. I'm not a Pollyanna, but I think positive thoughts and actions can be contagious, and we need that today! Report
Back in the 1960's (I think) a researcher, Aaron Antonovsky, studied why some people are survivors, and others aren't. He found three things that were predictive of increased survival rates:
Comprehensibility - Survivors had a belief that the world could be comprehended. They could figure out how they had arrived at their current state because even though unpredictable things happen, even seemingly random things, like being at the wrong place at the wrong time, can be explained.
Manageability - Survivors believed that their situation could be managed. They believed that resources would be available and were always on the look out for things that could help their situation.
Meaningfulness - Survivors had a belief that their lives were not a random series of unpredictable events, but that their experiences had meaning. Even if their experiences were tragic, they were not empty.
He called the three things together a "Sense of Coherence." The underlying attitude for coherence, in my opinion, is hope.
The opposite of this is "Learned Helplessness." When we continually fail at trying to change our situation, we eventually stop trying because we believe that nothing we do will make any difference. Our self talk turns to the personal, pervasive, and permanent reasons that nothing is ever going to change. Belief that we are helpless prevents us from helping ourselves.
It makes all the sense in the world to me that optimism adds years to your life. Report
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