BOSTON — We’re told so often that hitting the gym and eating well will guide us to longer lives. Turns out keeping a healthy mind and embracing a positive outlook may be the real key to longevity, according to a study led by Harvard researchers.
The study examined 70,000 women over eight years and found that those who were more optimistic had a significantly reduced risk of death from leading causes such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
“While most medical and public health efforts today focus on reducing risk factors for diseases, evidence has been mounting that enhancing psychological resilience may also make a difference,” Eric Kim, research fellow in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and co-lead author of the study, told the Harvard Gazette. “Our new findings suggest that we should make efforts to boost optimism, which has been shown to be associated with healthier behaviors and healthier ways of coping with life challenges.”
In breaking down the numbers, Kim and his team discovered the most optimistic women in the study were:
- 38 percent less likely to die from heart disease
- 39 percent less likely to die from stroke
- 16 percent less likely to die from heart cancer
- 52 percent less likely to die from infection
- 38 percent less likely to die from respiratory disease
Overall, the most positive women in the study were nearly 30 percent less likely to die from any of the ailments examined.
“It seems to have the most effect on cardiovascular outcomes and the smallest effect on cancer outcomes,” Kim told CBS Boston. What’s more, an optimistic outlook on life may bring about lower lipid levels, less inflammation, and higher antioxidant levels, Kim added in a Yahoo Beauty interview.
One suggestion Kim offered to CBS Boston as to how people can think more positively: envision your “best possible self.”
“So you think about your different domains of life whether it’s your personal relationship, your spouse, your career, your friendships, and in each of those domains you think about the best possible outcome,” he said.
Do you happen to hold an optimistic outlook on life? Share some ways you keep your chin up in the comments section below.