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Optimists Live Longer and Sleep Better. But Can You Become One?

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Be optimistic. It is useful and probably prolongs life. If you already thought like that, now you have the scientific backing, writes former editor-in-chief of Live Science and Space and author Robert Roy Britt at Medium.

A new study shows that women who consider themselves very optimistic live 15% longer and are 50% more likely to live to 85 than those who report low levels of optimism. And optimistic men live 11% longer and have a 70% higher chance of living to 85.

To conduct the study, researchers observed 69,744 women for 10 years and 1,429 men for 30 years.

Both groups assessed their level of optimism.

The researchers also took into account factors such as health, depression, diet, and demographics.

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Pessimists, of course, can say that this proves nothing and that this is a typical scientific problem “after or because” and they will be right. But this is just one study out of many that confirms that optimism has a positive effect on our health.

“We know that optimistic people have a lower risk of developing chronic disease and dying prematurely,” said Lewina O. Lee, a member of the research team and clinical psychologist.

However, how exactly optimism affects our body is currently unknown. It is believed that a key factor may be how the body responds to stress. Chronic stress can lead to inflammation, which in turn is the cause of many diseases. Optimism helps reduce stress, while pessimism, on the other hand, causes its chronic form.

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Optimists not only live long. They sleep even better and longer!

Optimism helps reduce stress, while pessimism, on the other hand, causes its chronic form.

They do not often feel drowsy during the day and are 74% less likely to report insomnia symptoms.

The study, which came to this conclusion, was published in the journal Behavioral Medicine, which involved 3,500 people aged 32 to 51 years.

Professor Rosalba Hernandez suggests that this is because optimists are more inclined to actively solve problems and interrupt stressful events in a positive way.

And a 2015 study found that the most optimistic people, aged 45-84, are twice as likely to have a completely healthy heart than the least optimistic.

In 2018, an analysis of several scientific studies showed that optimistic elderly women have a 38% lower risk of dying from a heart attack than their pessimistic peers.

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Can we become more optimistic?

This is partly decided by our genetics.

Research with twins has shown that we inherit at least 25% of our optimism. But the level of optimism can fall or rise, depending on what we get from life. This phenomenon is also influenced by age. Scientists note that the most pessimistic person feels at 20. Then the level of optimism increases, reaches its peak at 55 and gradually decreases.

The optimists are united by the fact that they find the positive even in the most difficult situations, and try to solve the problem they have encountered to the last. But we can improve our optimism.

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For example, visualize yourself at the center of positive future events. During this psychological visualization exercise, you should imagine your best achievements or how you are surrounded by wonderful friends.

Such visualization of the best version of oneself can contribute to a positive outlook on the future.