from Unexpected Ways Optimism Helps Your Health
By Courtney Mifsud in REAL SIMPLE
There is a growing recognition that optimism and positivity influence our health. Not only does a brighter outlook tend to lead to healthier habits, but research suggests that looking at the glass half full can help ward off chronic health conditions such as heart disease and add years to our lives.
In fact, optimistic people may live longer than those who are pessimistic, according to a 2019 study by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The researchers found that people who scored higher on an optimism assessment were more likely to live past age 85.
Why do optimists have a health edge? It may come down to their getting a better night’s sleep. A 2019 study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that people who are optimistic tend to sleep better and longer. Notes William Lamson, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology in clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine, “[Optimists] tend to be more consistent in their healthy habits … they (not only) get better sleep, they also tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.”
From an evolutionary perspective, our bodies were not developed to be living in cities and dealing with what we’re dealing with now. In humans’ ancient past, it was a good thing when cortisol kicked in because it allowed us to avoid threats like saber-tooth tigers. Today, though, our bodies are reacting as if we’re in extreme danger, even when we’re just facing minor challenges. If you’re under constant stress and the alarm continues to go off, you have higher levels of cortisol. Over the long term, this harms the body, says Lamson.
There are so many more ways optimism helps your health. If you’re not convinced yet, check out this article in REAL SIMPLE.