PARIS: Do optimists live longer? Of course they do

PARIS: Do optimists live longer? Of course they do

PARIS: Q&A- Do you have a happy brain?

Q: What can you practice to be happier? –
A: All of them. Studies tell us that writing down what we are grateful for several times a week, laughing and surrounding ourselves with positive, nurturing relationships and looking for the positive as often as possible are great ways to boost mood.


Q: At which age are you most likely to be happy? –
A: Old age. While most people believe happiness declines with age, studies show that’s not true. A large Gallup poll found 85-year-olds to be more satisfied with themselves than 18-year-olds, and another study found that happiness and enjoyment dip in middle age and rise again in old age.


Q: Which experiences will make you happiest? –
A: It depends on your age. Younger people gain more happiness from uncommon, extraordinary experiences, while older people savor simple, ordinary experiences that fill up daily life.


Q: Which of these purchases might make you happiest? –
A: Family games and traveling. Studies show that spending on meaningful activities that bring us closer to family and friends or boost self-confidence makes us the happiest, such as sharing travel experiences, playing board games or learning musical instruments.


Q: Which activity could train your brain to be happy? –
A: All of them. In fact, happy brain expert Dr. Richard Davidson says his data show that if a person sits quietly and thinks about kindness and compassion for a half-hour a day, their brain will show noticeable changes in just two weeks.


Who doesn’t want to be happy? – As research into our mysterious gray matter continues to explode, scientists are getting ever closer to understanding what creates a calm, contented and happy brain. Answer these eight questions to see whether your brain is wired to be happy or if you might need to practice positivity.

Q: Which picture appeals to you the most? –
A: If you picked the kitten or pup, your brain may be wired to be happy. Studies show that people who have happy brains respond more to positive things than negative or neutral ones.


Q: Which picture is most positive? –
A: All of them. They all have positive elements. No one is hurt, and everyone has access to help. Happy people, according to happiness researcher and author Rick Hanson, look for the positives in each experience and try to hold on to those.


Q: Which of these is critical to your happiness? –
A: None of them. Happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky says that although all of these can contribute to contentment, they are also part of The Myths of Happiness. She defines those as “myths that assure us that lifelong happiness will be attained once we hit the culturally confirmed markers of adult success. This restricted view of happiness works to discourage us from recognizing the upside of any negative life turn and blocks us from recognizing our own growth potential.”


It may also lengthen your life. Higher levels of optimism are associated with a longer lifespan and a greater chance of living past 90, according to a new study of nearly 160,000 women of different races and backgrounds.


Healthy lifestyle factors, such as the quality of diet, physical activity, body mass index (BMI), smoking and alcohol consumption, accounted for less than a fourth of the association between longevity and optimism, according to the study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.


“Although optimism itself may be patterned by social structural factors, our findings suggest that the benefits of optimism for longevity may hold across racial and ethnic groups,” said lead author Hayami Koga, a postdoctorial student at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in a statement.

“Optimism may be an important target of intervention for longevity across diverse groups,”  Koga added.

A growing body of research

This isn’t the first study to find a strong link between longevity and looking on the bright side of life. A 2019 study found both men and women with the highest levels of optimism had an average 11% to 15% longer life span than people who practiced little positive thinking. In fact, the highest-scoring optimists were most likely to live to age 85 or beyond.


The results held true, the study found, even when socioeconomic status, health conditions, depression, smoking, social engagement, poor diet and alcohol use were considered.

Optimism doesn’t mean ignoring life’s stressors, experts say. But when negative things happen, optimistic people are less likely to blame themselves and more likely to see the obstacle as temporary or even positive. Optimists also believe they have control over their fate and can create opportunities for good things to happen in the future.


Being optimist also improves your health, studies find. Prior research has found a direct link between optimism and healthier diet and exercise behaviors, as well as better cardiac health, a stronger immune system, better lung function, and lower mortality risk, among others.

You too can be an optimist

Studies of twins have found only about 25% of our optimism is programmed by our genes. The rest is up to us and how we respond to life’s lemons. If you’re more likely to turn sour when stressed, don’t worry. It turns out you can train your brain to be more positive.

One of the most effective ways to increase optimism is called the “Best Possible Self” method, according to a meta-analysis of existing studies. In this intervention, you imagine yourself in a future in which you have achieved all your life goals and all of your problems have been resolved.

Begin to write for 15 minutes about specifics you have accomplished and spent five minutes imaging how that reality looks and feels. Practicing this daily can significantly improve your positive feelings, experts say.


Writing down positive experiences and reasons to be grateful help train the brain to be optomistic, studies find.

In an 2011 study, students practiced the Best Possible Self exercise for 15 minutes once a week for eight weeks. Not only did they feel more positive, the feelings lasted for about six months.

Another way to bolster optimism is to keep a journal dedicated to only positive experiences you experienced that day. Over time, that focus on the positive can reshape your outlook, experts say.

Taking a few minutes each day to write down what makes you thankful can also improve your outlook on life. A number of studies have shown that practicing gratefulness improves positive coping skills by breaking the typical negative thinking style and substituting optimism. Counting blessings even lessened problem behavior in adolescents.

Like exercise, optimism exercises will need to be practiced on a regular basis to keep the brain’s positive outlook in good shape, experts say. But isn’t a longer, happier, more positive life worth the effort?

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