How Optimism in Your Twenties and Thirties Prevents Illness Later in Life
How important is optimism? A new study by Consumer Reports claims an optimistic outlook not only makes you happier, but also healthier.Chocobo Names
According to research, those of us who are more optimistic, satisfied and positive in our early lives are less likely to experience chronic illness and disease during old age. Furthermore, as we enter middle adulthood, our mental state becomes a growing factor in the development of small illnesses, like catching a cold, as well as more serious and life threatening conditions.
A whole range of studies carried out over the last 50 years suggest that optimism and being generally happier boosts immunity and life expectancy, as well as significantly reduces the likelihood of death by chronic illness.
On the other hand, those who suffer from depression, anxiety or similarly low mood get ill more frequently, take longer to recover from surgery and have more dental problems. A 2003 study by the Neurology Journal even suggested that those suffering from distressed mental health were twice as likely as those in good mental health to develop Alzheimer’s.
Why does this happen?
Research has shown that emotions like anger and depression place increased stress on the cardiovascular system, as well as changing levels of hormones in our bodies, which over time lead to significant strain on our bodies and a higher likelihood of developing chronic ill health.
So what can you do to boost your optimism and protect your health?
Focusing less on what we wish to gain or achieve and more on what we already have, is a great way to achieve greater happiness and satisfaction in our lives
Thankfully, there is an ever growing body of evidence that suggests you can boost your happiness without making any major lifestyle changes or acquiring additional possessions or money.
In fact, there is a profound leaning in recent research that focusing less on what we wish to gain or achieve and more on what we already have, is a great way to achieve greater happiness and satisfaction in our lives right now.
The ever popular mindfulness practice is a great example of this.
How mindfulness can help:
Mindfulness encourages you to become aware and awake in the present in order to appreciate what is going on in the here and now.
This spiritual awareness encourages us to see the happiness in our day to day lives, instead of getting lost in worries about our past or future.
Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zin recommends starting with around 15 minutes of meditation a day and making a special effort to really notice, and engage with, what is going on around you.
A similar sentiment can be found in The Art of Happiness, a collaborative work between psychiatrist Howard Cutler and the Dalai Lama. Over the course of a year Cutler held conversations with the Dalai Lama on his approach to cultivating happiness in all areas of our lives. In the book we’re told that, although it is not a sudden, simple process:
With practice we can bring much greater happiness into our day-to-day by working to identify what makes us happy, sad or angry, and trying to cultivate or eliminate those practices accordingly.
Cutler goes on to explain the Dalai Lama’s teaching about perspective, that once we have identified what makes us happy we can learn to be more grateful for the presence of those things in our day instead of taking them for granted.
Overtime, our focus falls much more heavily on the positive and pursuing the things that bring us happiness and the negatives fade into the background. So not only will you boost your health by focusing on these positives, you’ll be much happier and be able to incorporate optimism into your day-to-day as well.
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