According to a growing body of research, the answer to this question is “yes”!
Optimism has now been linked with a variety of health benefits, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (the number one killer in the industrialized world) and other chronic diseases.
It also contributes to what researchers call “exceptional longevity”—living past 85 years of age.
In fact, in a recent meta-analysis of 15 studies with almost 230,000 participants, optimism was associated with a 35 percent reduction in cardiovascular events and a 14 percent reduction in all-cause mortality.
This is well beyond the results that can be obtained by statin drugs (and any other drug) for the vast majority of people.
The caveat is that the link between optimism and improved lifespan and health outcomes is based on observational data, and, as you all know by now, “correlation is not causation.”
However, researchers have begun to understand the biological mechanisms that could account for a causal relationship between optimism and a long, healthy life.
- Pessimists tend to have higher cortisol levels than optimists.
- Pessimists tend to have more inflammation than optimists.
- Pessimists are less likely to consistently engage in health-promoting behaviors than optimists.
- Pessimists are less resilient than optimists in the face of challenges.
Conventional wisdom holds that we’re either born pessimistic or optimistic, and there’s not much we can do about.
But recent research on neuroplasticity has shown that this isn’t true. It is possible to cultivate optimism and a more positive attitude, even if you’re a pessimist.
How do you do that?
Here are a few of my favorite resources:
- Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, by Rick Hanson, PhD. Rick also has a great Positive Neuroplasticity Training online course.
- A Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted, by Will Bowen. The simple act of not complaining can have a dramatic impact on our attitude and outlook.
- Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS). This neuroplasticity-based approach to healing chronic illness is based in part on positive psychology. See my podcast with Annie Hopper, the creator of DNRS, for more information. A recent study at McMaster University in Canada found that DNRS is remarkably effective.
Cultivating a positive outlook won’t just improve your health, it will make your life better in so many other ways.
It’s just more fun to be happy and optimistic!
P.S. This is what makes me happy…
Reference Source(s): Kresser Institute
View as webpage