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Embrace Aging With Positive Thinking Improve Resiliency

There are many benefits of positive thinking, including stress reduction, improved immunity, and a lower risk for heart disease. But did you know that keeping a positive outlook can help you live longer, too? Here's what research says about optimism and ageing, and what you can do to reap the rewards.

Add Years to Your Life

Studies show that how you perceive ageing and your life as a whole affects longevity. A 2019 study found that positive thinking can result in an 11–15% longer lifespan and a stronger likelihood of living to age 85 or older. This effect remained after other factors such as age, gender, income, depression, and health status were controlled.

Research on the topic has found that people who have a positive outlook on ageing while they are young, rather than dread growing old, have a greater chance of living longer. That's because adjusting your opinion on ageing while you're still young can build a positive perspective that can have a tremendous effect on your life expectancy.

Improve Resiliency

Findings suggest that positive thinking about ageing can increase a person's will to live, making them more resilient to illness and more proactive about health. Those with a positive outlook are also likely to experience less stress, reducing their likelihood of developing chronic diseases or disorders.

Find Insight as You Age

Our society tends to prize youth and beauty, while messages about ageing tend to emphasize the negative aspects. But, like fine wine, people should get better as they age. Experience, combined with maturity, gives older people great insight. They're often more in touch spiritually and they prioritize depth in their life. By following a simple, healthy lifestyle you can preserve your health and energy throughout life.

Other Markers of Healthy Aging

In addition to positive thinking, there are lifestyle factors that can add years to your life, including exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutrient-dense diet, consuming only moderate amounts of alcohol (if any), and not smoking, all of which can help extend lifespan by 12–14 years.1

While studies point to living longer, they don't often discuss the improved quality of life that comes with it. But as the field of positive psychology is exploring, beyond increased lifespan, positive thoughts and emotions can contribute tremendously to happiness so you can enjoy a richer, more satisfying life.

Like meditation, yoga, or any self-care ritual, staying positive is a practice. Fortunately, the tools required are free and can be done on your own at your pace. Here are a few ways to consciously cultivate positive thinking in your daily life:

  • Keep a gratitude journal: No matter the format you choose—brief lists on your phone or longer entries written in a notebook—a gratitude journal can be a powerful way to connect to your emotions and relieve stress. The subject matter can vary, but the key is consistency. Maintaining regular practice will help develop a new way of thinking so you can easily identify and stop negative thoughts when they arise.

  • Repeat positive affirmations: If you say something enough times, you're more likely to believe it. That's the idea behind positive affirmations, statements with intention repeated numerous times to make them a part of your thinking, such as "I am feeling more peaceful each day" or "I can handle whatever comes my way." It's important to keep these affirmations rooted in reality. Your subconscious may flag far-fetched statements, putting you back in a negative state of mind.

  • Practice loving-kindness meditation: Studies have shown that loving-kindness meditation can significantly increase a positive attitude. While there are variations to the practice, the common theme is focusing on positive phrases that evoke self-compassion as well as empathy for others, using statements like, "May I be happy" and "May you be safe."

  • Spend time with other positive thinkers: The saying goes, "You are the company you keep." So it makes sense that when you associate with other optimists, you tend to feel uplifted, happy, and supported. Take note of your emotions when you're around friends and family. You may need to establish boundaries with those who bring your positive energy down.

Keep Stress At Bay

We all get stressed at times in our life. The important thing is to find ways to deal with it better to support healthy ageing because stress has many negative consequences. Here are typical, but not good ways to deal with stress.

Unhealthy reactions to stress might include these behaviours:

  • Drinking alcohol

  • Turning to drugs

  • Gambling

  • Overeating

  • Starving yourself

  • Becoming compulsive about shopping or sex

  • Smoking

Rather than let stress build up and adversely affect you, incorporate these actions in your everyday life to prevent stress:

  • Begin practising mindfulness meditation

  • Exercise to relieve frustrations

  • Dance or listen to music

  • Write in a journal

  • Challenge negative thoughts and beliefs

  • Practice gratitude

  • Maintain optimism

Treat Feelings of Depression

Common causes for depression in older adults are the death of a spouse, family member, friend or pet. Dealing with health issues, changes in the body and the natural process of ageing might also cause sadness and depression.

Unfortunately, seniors might feel they’re just getting old. Or they might not even realize they’re depressed. If you feel emptiness, numbness, lose sleep or your appetite, these could also be symptoms of depression.

If seniors recognize they’re depressed, they could very well refuse treatment. A recent survey showed that older adults wouldn’t seek help for their depression.

To prevent yourself from falling into a state of depression, fortify yourself with these actions alongside traditional forms of treatment such as therapy:

  • Find meaning in your life

  • Volunteer for a cause you believe in (very beneficial for seniors)

  • Enjoy your hobbies, collections and interests

  • Tell someone you love them

  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable with those close to you

  • When you start to feel down, reach out to someone at that moment

  • Keep a positive attitude

  • Give yourself self-care

  • Watch a funny movie to distract yourself

  • Use laughter as a coping mechanism


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