When it comes to longevity, genetics, diet and exercise are the factors we usually think of.
But according to a recent study by Boston University School of Medicine and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, our attitude about all of that—and life in general—can have an even greater impact.
Researchers found that the most optimistic participants, who were tracked for up to 30 years, showed an 11-15% longer lifespan, with far greater odds of reaching 85 than those who were the least optimistic.
Being positive isn’t easy, or even natural. In fact, we’re hardwired with something called negativity bias, a survival mechanism that brings our attention to negative events over positive ones.
If we’re enjoying a delicious meal while the house is on fire, the fire is what gets our attention. This is helpful—but not when our life isn’t threatened. For example, when we’re stuck in traffic, we’re alive and safe and all is well, and yet many times we feel frustrated, or worried we’ll miss the first inning.
Clinical health psychologist Natalie Dattilo of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston says that optimism can be learned, even by adults struggling with anxiety and depression.
“We examine their thinking under a psychological microscope,” she says. “If we can look at that together, we can begin to uncover systems of beliefs and assumptions people are making about themselves in their lives and we can begin to change those.”
Like anything else, it takes practice, which means a lot of repetition. Each time you react negatively, examine the thought, ask yourself if it’s important or even true. Then shift your focus to consider what’s positive.
“Just try it on,” Dattilo suggests. “Try on a different thought, attitude or mindset and play that out and just see what happens.”
Enjoy more, worry less. Your AMBA agent can help with that. With health coverage and other retirement products endorsed by your association, you can spend more energy focusing on the positive.
Here’s to a long, happy, healthy life.