If you are stuck in a cave then follow the optimist. Because when an opportunity would present itself, a pessimist would see a hole too small to fit into and an optimist would see the wide world outside. Optimism doesn’t mean ignoring the grim details of life but realizing that they are nothing but grim details. Optimists look beyond these details – they look at the bigger picture. They view obstacles as passing phases and focus on looking ahead and working for better things. They would take up opportunities that others would pass. Thus they end up happier.
Recent studies prove that men and women who are generally optimistic tend to have an 11% to 15% longer lifespan. It was found that the most optimistic people lived for over 85 years of age. The study conducted in this matter took into consideration the socio-economic condition, health condition, social engagement, etc. It also went over life-threatening habits of drinking, smoking and substance abuse.
Lead author, Lewina Lee, assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University’s School of Medicine said, “This was the first study to look at the impact of optimism on exceptional longevity, which is defined as living to age 85 or more.”
The study found that women who were optimistic had 1.5 times greater chances of living beyond 85 years as compared to pessimists. For men, it was 1.7 times greater.
Lewina Lee explains that this vast difference could be because optimistic people would be more likely to reach health goals set for them. Previously researched topics on this matter had brought satisfying links between optimism and good exercise routines, stronger immune systems, better cardiac health, and lower mortality risks.
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson believed that the psychological dimension created by studying optimism(and other positive attributes) and its association with health is wider than we realize.
In a certain study involving twins, it was observed that only 25% of our optimism was genetic. Researchers at Davidson’s Centre had the opportunity to study the brains of the Tibetan monks recruited by the Dalai Lama. They were startled to see how much their brain had been structurally and functionally altered as a result of hours of meditation.
Davidson assures that one need not fall into such rigorous practices to achieve the desired results. Even 30 minutes of practice per day is likely to bring about the changes one expects to see.
Also, it is not that difficult to culture optimism. One exercise could be to daydream about a future day when you have achieved everything. In a 2011 experiment, an exercise based on this foundation called “Best Possible Self” found long-lasting results of positivity in the subjects.
Davidson assures that by being grateful and bringing positive things to mind one might actually acquire optimism.