Happiness Can Extend Your Life

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: General Health, Mood & Memory
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

I’ve long talked about the healing power of optimism. I have even seen how positive thinking can help to fight cancer. Now, a new study shows that maintaining a positive attitude can extend your life.

Researchers at the University College of London just released the findings of their English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). They followed more than 10,000 people ages 50 and over for more than 10 years. The findings they just released compared the findings of subjects visited in 2002-2003 “wave 1” of the study, and again in 2010-2011 “wave 5.”

What they found is that those who were happiest with life in wave 1 were most likely to be alive in wave 5. Meanwhile, those with the lowest enjoyment of life in wave 1 were three times more likely to have died by wave 5.

The researchers also found that happiness and wellbeing in life in 2004-2005, “wave 2” of the study, accurately predicted whether people would develop coronary heart disease, and other illnesses, by wave 5. These findings held true regardless of a person’s age, gender, ethnicity, or social status.

Clearly optimism is important, but what if you’re not an optimist by nature? The good news is that it’s never too late to change your perspective—reframing the events in your life with a positive spin. Plus, adopting what I like to call an “attitude of gratitude,” can go a long way toward improving your mental and physical health.

Now it’s your turn: How do you maintain a positive attitude?

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