The children’s book “The Little Engine That Could” tells the story of an optimistic train that, against all odds, believes in itself. That sort of unwavering optimism is at the heart of a new study that suggests positive thinking may help you live longer.
Having an optimistic outlook on life may do more than just boost your mood. It may actually help you live longer, according to new research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that women who were optimistic had a significantly lower risk of dying from several major diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease, compared to other women whose outlook on life was less positive.
According to National Public Radio (NPR), researchers “found that after controlling for factors including age, race, educational level and marital status, the women who were most optimistic were 29 percent less likely to die.”
The most optimistic people in the study had:
- a 16% lower risk of dying from cancer
- a 38% lower risk of dying from heart disease
- a 39% lower risk of dying from stroke
- a 38% lower risk of dying from respiratory disease
- a 52% lower risk of dying from infection
NewsMax Health quoted Eric Kim, co-lead author of the study.
“Optimistic people tend to act in healthier ways. Studies show that optimistic people exercise more, eat healthier diets and have higher quality sleep. Optimistic people also use healthier coping styles,” he (Kim) said. “A summary of over 50 studies showed that when confronted with life challenges, optimists use healthier coping methods like acceptance of circumstances that cannot be changed, planning for further challenges, creating contingency plans, and seeking support from others when needed.”
A story on Health.com added that optimism is something we can all practice and we are all capable of achieving. “Even if you’re naturally a glass half-empty type of person, studies show that a positive mindset can be learned and cultivated through relatively simple exercises. One example could be “having people write down and think about the best possible outcomes for various areas of their lives, such as careers or friendships,” says co-lead author and research fellow Kaitlin Hagan, PhD. “Encouraging use of these interventions could be an innovative way to enhance health in the future.”
Share your thoughts on this new study and whether you believe in the power of positive thinking as it relates to better health outcomes. If optimism was enough to help that little engine pull a train over a high mountain…..maybe it can help us take another step toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!