Being optimistic is really good for one’s healthBy Dr. Veita Bland / September 6, 2019
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Have you ever wondered how some people seem to wake up on the wrong side of the bed each day? We all know individuals who seem to be unable to utter a word of good cheer until they’ve had their morning cup of Joe or coffee.
Then there are people who will look at or live through a catastrophe of the tenth degree and still are able to find a silver lining in it. While others will falter under the smallest of problems.
So, what makes some people more resilient? Why are some people prone to show a wonderful and miraculous sense of optimism no matter what?
Looking at these traits from a health point of view, does the way you view the world and life affect your health in any way? Does your optimism score affect your health?
A group of researchers looked exactly at this. Researchers in Boston published their findings in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Science. They wanted to see if having that feeling that everything is going to be all right resulted in living longer.
They examined results from long term studies of women in the Nurses’ Health Study with 10 years of follow up material and the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study with 30 years of follow up material. They also took a closer look to see how people who were more optimistic faired in their health.
In the women, those in the top 25 percent of the optimistic score lived 15 percent longer than those in the bottom 25 percent of the optimistic scores. In the men, those in the top 20 percent of their optimistic score lived 11 percent longer than those in the bottom 20 percent of the optimistic scoring. To put these numbers in perspective, we know that people with diabetes and heart disease do not live as long as people without these health issues. People in the higher brackets of optimism negated the effect of these diseases with their optimism.
Researchers also found that people with the highest optimistic scores also lived longer. They termed it “exceptional longevity”. Women with the top optimistic scores were 50 percent more likely to make it to age 85 as those with the lowest scores. As for the men, again, those with the highest optimistic scores were 70 percent more likely to make it to age 85 as those with the lowest scores.
The researchers wondered if those who were more optimistic took better care of themselves; if they put forth more effort in their health.
It is known from previous studies that 25 percent of a person’s optimism is inherited. What has also been shown is that optimism is an acquired skill. Research has shown that journaling, meditation and using cognitive behavior are means of increasing that optimistic vibe you have.
So, let us all, in the words of the great Eric Idle, “Always look at the bright side of life.” It truly is good for your health.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.