Let a smile be your umbrella, and you just might live longer; especially if you’re a woman.
Researchers spent the last eight years studying over 70 thousand women, and the results show that those who made the effort to look at the sunny side of life lived on average five years longer than those who termed themselves as cynics or felt mostly unsatisfied with their life.
There is growing evidence that the way we view our situation has a direct impact on how long we live. Whereas younger people tend to be naturally optimistic because of their bursting health and hormones, as we slide into middle age it gets harder to remain optimistic as we experience downturns in our careers, relationships, finances, and health. This is a benchmark for women more than men. If they are able to remain positive despite setbacks they stand a better chance of prolonged life.
Women who feel confident that things are going well with them and that things are going to continue to go well are more likely to live healthy lifestyles, eschewing tobacco use and are very moderate in their use of alcohol and other recreational drugs.
On top of that, studies show a direct correlation between exercise and an optimistic outlook for women. Female marathon runners are twice as likely to remain free of both heart disease and postmenopausal depression as women who do not participate in extended running or jogging.
Find your happy place and live longer
Laguna Beach physician Beverly Hong explains “A woman’s body is always attuned to her moods and emotions — much more so than a man’s physical body. Where a man can suffer a crushing defeat in business or a relationship and still bounce back in a relatively short time, when a woman experiences the same kind of emotional trauma it can be much more debilitating, which in turn can lead to a clinical depression that can take years to treat and overcome. So it’s extremely important that women develop a defensive emotional mechanism early in life that lets them shrug off their problems the same way that a man can — and certainly one way to develop this ability is to remain determinedly optimistic.”
To further foster optimism in women, Hong suggests they learn to weed out and isolate their associates who are consistently negative — because negativity can be contagious with long exposure.
Women with similar interests and goals should find more opportunities to socialize together so they can reinforce one another’s determination to practice positive thinking.
“When you wake up each morning think of something good that you can look forward to that day before you even get out of bed” suggests Hong. “People are not ‘born’ positive or negative; they learn to become that way from their environment and experiences, but then can learn to overcome negative environments by always looking for positive outcomes. Because you generally find what you’re looking for!”
This article has been edited.
Melissa Thompson is the Founder of health and fitness magazine HarcourtHealth. She contributes to Forbes, LifeHack, and others. She formerly produced web segments for USA Today and CNN. She lives in Utah with her 2 children. Connect with @melthompson88 on Twitter.