How many times have you been told to stop worrying and just “think positive?” Although many people suggest optimism just to offer reassurance or comfort, there’s actually a lot of power in it. In fact, there’s a pretty strong link between optimism and aging well because being positive is good for both your physical and mental health.
First and foremost, having a positive attitude helps with aging well because it’s the key to maintaining mental health as you get older. Positive people tend to have lower levels of depression and anxiety, and are less likely to develop mood disorders. As you age, you will likely have to face more and more distressful situations, such as an illness or the loss of a spouse, and these life-changing circumstances can be detrimental to mental health, impeding your path towards aging well.
Optimism has the power to not only help you recover from an illness quicker, but it improves the way you cope with a stressful situation—you’re more likely to look for a solution to the problem than just let it be. That’s why people who have a more positive outlook have improved mental health, because they possess better stress management skills than their negative counterparts. In other words, the better you are at coping with something, the more likely you are to overcome and move past it, rather than let it hold you down. This can do wonders for your mental health and make all the difference between aging well and poorly. Positive thinkers are also less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol in place of healthy, proactive stress management techniques.
The link between optimism and aging well even surpasses mental health. It’s believed that having a positive attitude can lead to a decreased risk of heart disease, and can improve your chances of avoiding rehospitalization after a surgical procedure. People with a positive outlook are less likely to get sick as they age, and when they do, they recover more quickly. It’s easier to focus on aging well when your body is capable of healing itself naturally.
Furthermore, optimism assists in maintaining physical health and aging well by improving pain tolerance, immunity, and cancer outcomes. With a positive attitude, you’re also more likely to value an anti-aging diet and anti-aging fitness as necessary tools for aging well. Studies have shown that optimists, on average, tend to live longer than pessimists.
Tips for Staying Positive and Aging Well
• If there’s anyone in your life who constantly brings you down with their negativity, you may want to start spending less time with them, if not distancing yourself completely, as negativity can be contagious. But so is optimism, so surround yourself with more like-minded people to improve your chances of aging well.
• Don’t let negative comments bring you down because, a lot of the times, they’re coming from individuals who are projecting their own frustrations onto you. For a trick to aging well, replace every one negative comment you hear or even think to yourself with two positive ones.
• Visualize a realistic goal and focus on achieving it. For example, trying to lose 10 pounds in a week will set you up for disappointment because it’s not sensibly achievable. But if you give yourself more time, you’re more likely to see results, which will make it easier to stay positive. Tracking your progress also helps to discredit negativity and focus only on positive points for aging well.
• Make a conscious effort to add more positive language into everyday conversations. Smiling has been shown to actually make you feel better, so don’t hesitate to smile or even laugh to ensure aging well.
• Avoid thinking of everything in black and white, good and bad, failure and success. If you want to focus on optimism as a tool for aging well, try focusing on the gray area—if you fail at something, focus on what you did right instead of only on what went wrong. Learn to give yourself a little more credit.
• If you’ve had negative thoughts for a long time, be aware that this is something you will not be able to fix overnight. Start slowly and gradually. There may be times when you fall back into your negative thought process, but be patient and know that with time and practice, optimism will just come naturally. Aging well takes some effort, so pat yourself on the back for at least taking on the endeavor—the perfect example of turning a negative into a positive.
“Can Optimism Make a Difference in Your Life?” University of Rochester Medical Center web site; https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=4511, last accessed October 28, 2013.
“Positive thinking: Reduce stress by eliminating negative self-talk,” Mayo Clinic web site; https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/positive-thinking/SR00009, last accessed October 28, 2013.
Villarica, H., “How the Power of Positive Thinking Won Scientific Credibility,” The Atlantic web site, April 23, 2012; https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/04/how-the-power-of-positive-thinking-won-scientific-credibility/256223/.
Wong, S., “Always look on the bright side of life…,” The Guardian web site, August 11, 2009; https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2009/aug/11/optimism-health-heart-disease.