The power of positivity – just how much does your state of mind effect your overall health? Are people who feel sorry for themselves or depressed about their age more likely to die young? Can a positive attitude actually help you live a longer, more fulfilling life? These questions appear to have been answered by a new study which has revealed that, yes, people who maintain a positive attitude while aging tend to live significantly longer than those who feel bad about getting older.
The research was conducted by Becca Levy of Yale University and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. To set up her research, Levy studied subjects for a period of 23 years and chronicled their psychological attitudes, state of mind and how they felt about themselves/their bodies as they got older. According to the abstract, Levy “found that older individuals with more positive self-perceptions of aging, lived 7.5 years longer than those with less positive self-perceptions of aging.”
The study consisted of 660 individuals over the age of 50, who each took part in something known as the Ohio Longitudinal Study of Aging and Retirement (OLSAR). When all was said and done, when the OLSAR data was compared to the national averages of the overall population, “the findings suggest that the self-perceptions of stigmatized groups can influence longevity.” To put it in more simple terms, Levy suggests that people who remain positive and exhibit the best “will to live,” live longer.
This is not the first study Becca Levy has conducted on this mind to body connection. A previous study, conducted earlier this year, found that people who developed “more-negative age stereotypes earlier in life had significantly steeper hippocampal-volume loss and significantly greater accumulation of neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques” than those who did not. The results of this are profound, as the study found a direct correlation – those who think negatively as they age, are significantly more likely to develop Alzheimer’s/dementia.
Similarly, a third study, conducted in 2013, went on to find a positive correlation “between positive age stereotypes and recovery from disability in older persons.” Researchers found that people who were discouraged or depressed about an injury or medical condition, at advanced ages, seemed to recover significantly slower than those who were upbeat and maintained a positive attitude. Researchers attribute this specifically to the power of your mind, stating that maintaining a positive spirit can help people recover faster physiologically for 4 reasons: “limiting cardiovascular response to stress,2 improving physical balance,3 enhancing self-efficacy,4 and increasing engagement in healthy behaviors.”
The researchers hypothesized “that older persons with positive age stereotypes would be more likely to recover from disability than those with negative age stereotypes,” and ultimately concluded “that the positive age–stereotype group had a significantly slower rate of Activities of Daily Life decline.”
The other day, in the comments section to the article “Empirical Evidence: Researchers Finally Confirm There Is Life After Death,” we talked briefly about philosophy and the law of attraction. The belief that by thinking/believing positive or negative thoughts, we can manifest positive or negative results. For example, if you believe that your life sucks, under the law of attraction, so be it, your life will suck. If there was ever proof to validate this line of thinking, surely these studies do just this.
It also reminds me of a video I once saw about a 70-year-old body builder named Sonny, who had the idea that age is all in your mind. As he says: “people have the misconception that age makes you old..it is a state of mind, age is just a number…people use age as an excuse to be lazy, to not do anything..this inactivity and this thought process is what makes you old. You start thinking your old..your body is going to feel old. Then you are going to start acting old.” Words of wisdom, indeed.
Sources: NPR, National Library of Medicine
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I’m 73 soon. I feel like a teenager. 16 years or so ago; I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I did nothing about it except not give it any energy by thinking about it all the time. I think of myself as healthy and strong and I am. Thoughs do create reality. Today I am as healthy as the day they told me I had cancer. You are what you think you are. If you look in the mirror and look for wrinkles…then you will find them,/ Stay positive. ‘‘You get what you concentrate on. There is no other main rule.”