These studies spanned ten and thirty years respectively and found that high optimism was linked to 11 to 15 percent longer lifespans, factoring in health and socioeconomic conditions. The optimism component reduced the risk of a wide range of health outcomes such as cardiovascular events, lung function decline, and premature death. The studies concluded that optimism directly contributes to how goals are translated in human behaviors.
Optimism affects behavior. People with optimistic attitudes tend to see the possibility of success in reaching their goals. It requires belief in one’s self, a behavior that can also be learned if it doesn’t come naturally. Entrepreneurs and top athletes realize that optimism has an effect on the way they think, work, and persevere in the face of adversity or challenges. It’s a kind of simultaneous springboard and safety cushion. And people with strong social ties (or social integration) had a 50 percent better chance of survival, regardless of age, health status, and gender than those with weaker ties. Translation: Make and keep close friends to live longer.
How can we have more optimism in our lives? Is it like flipping a switch? The studies cited show that about 25 percent of optimism is genetic, leaving 75 percent to be learned and developed. By spending just five minutes a day for two weeks imagining their best selves, people were found to greatly increase their optimism. Another way to achieve higher levels of optimism is to spend as much time as possible with positive, enthusiastic people. It rubs off! Lastly, if you typically tend to spend more time alone than in groups, simply think about your mindset. Be flexible about the notion of growth, effort, and application instead of relying on simply on your innate skills and talent. Discard self-imposed limitations and see what happens.
By embracing an attitude of hopefulness, expansion, and possibility—three key components of optimism—you can increase your chances of living a longer, healthier, more fulfilling life.