You’re either a glass half full or half empty kind of person. Few of us want to be grouped with the latter – there are few things less warming than someone who can’t see the bright side in anything. Aside from being more pleasant to be around, being an optimist has some impressive health benefits.
Back in 2009, a study by the University of Pittsburgh found that optimists were less likely to get ill, while in 2013 researchers at Concordia University found that those with a positive approach were better at dealing with stressful situations. “On days where they experience higher than average stress, that’s when we see that the pessimists’ stress response is much elevated, and they have trouble bringing their cortisol levels back down. Optimists, by contrast, were protected in these circumstances,” Joelle Jobin, the co-author of the study told Science Daily at the time.
A more recent study by Boston University went one step further and found that an optimistic outlook can improve your chances of living longer. The study surveyed 69,744 women over 10 years and 1,429 men over 30 years to measure their levels of optimism, as well as their overall health and lifestyle habits, including whether their smoked or drank alcohol.
“Previous studies reported that more optimistic individuals are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases and die prematurely,” says Lewina O. Lee, clinical research psychologist at Boston University. “Our results further suggest that optimism is specifically related to 11 to 15% longer life span, on average, and to greater odds of achieving “exceptional longevity,” that is, living to the age of 85 or beyond.”
How can you be more optimistic?
Keep a journal: In a world where few of us have a minute to collect our thoughts, the idea of writing them down feels like a luxury. However, taking five minutes out before you go to bed to write down a couple of things you’re most grateful for in that moment can help reset your mind, and it can also help you sleep.
Search for solutions: The office pessimist is never more obvious than when you’re in a crisis meeting looking for a way around the issue. Stewing on a problem often makes it feel bigger than it is and can exacerbate negative feelings. Where and when possible it is good to switch from being problem-focused to solution-focused.
Focus on the improvement: It’s easy to set ambitious goals and lose enthusiasm halfway through when you haven’t reached them. However, there is that popular saying: ‘your speed doesn’t matter – forward is forward’. Try focusing on how far you have come rather than how far you have to go. Making small mindset tweaks can ultimately change your overall approach.
Look after your gut: Plenty of studies have linked our gut with our nervous systems. Making sure the bacteria in your gut is well-balanced and thriving can have a surprising impact on your mood. Life Extension noted this and formulated Florassist Mood, a probiotic that contains the two strains of bacteria that help improve our mood, Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum.
Build up a sweat: Whether it’s a run in the park or a brisk walk, it’s worth getting your heart rate up as when we exercise our body releases endorphins, which help boost our mood. Recent research has also suggested that those who spend more time surrounded by nature also tend to be happier and more positive, so perhaps it’s time we all started or ended the day with a stroll in the park?