A new study is showing that attitude and outlook may be central to a long, healthy life. The study found that people who were happy with themselves and their well-being lived longer and healthier than their less enthusiastic counterparts.
And it was a pretty big difference too.
Both women and men who reported enjoying their lives aged better, healthier, and extended their lives longer. Happy women in their 50s went on to live another 37 years, outliving those who weren’t by six years. They were also less likely to experience disability and delay (or avoid) chronic illness until much later. Similar results were experienced by men.
The study, which is published in JAMA Open Network, was the result of surveys where participants self-assessed happiness, optimism, and self-satisfaction. It was based on their perception of themselves and their outlook, which is completely subjective. It was all based on how they felt, and not necessarily how some might say they “actually are.”
What’s interesting was that actual health/condition really didn’t seem to matter. If a person was satisfied and fulfilled with their life, overall health and longevity were closely related.
Although researchers couldn’t say exactly why this relationship existed, it may have something to do with stress. People that are happy and fulfilled seem to stress less, or at least experience it differently. They might be more likely to live in the moment and be happy with what they’ve got than worrying about what may happen or being bogged down by uncontrollable situations. Stress provides wear and tear on the body, and unhappy people tend to experience higher levels of stress.
Another explanation might be that happier people tend to take better care of themselves. Therefore, they may be more likely to practice the tenets of a healthy lifestyle: activity/exercise, healthy diet, strong social bonds, and moderate drinking.
Happiness, of course, is relative. Taking a more positive outlook is far easier said than done, but there are a few things you can try if you’re feeling unsatisfied:
- Realize why you are feeling unhappy and address it.
- Talk to a professional about ways to feel better about yourself
- Find ways to manage stress
- Take on a more active lifestyle
- Try to make healthier food choices (Mediterranean diet)
- Engage socially
- Adopt a hobby