Looking Through Rose-Coloured Glasses – Vital For Seniors
According to numerous studies, Optimism helps people cope with the diseas good enough reason to want to develop such a perspective, especially if you are approaching the golden years.
Maintaining a positive outlook in life is easier said than done. As you age, you experience a host of changes in lifestyle, health, and even family relationships that can challenge your positivity. In this article, we will first discuss what authentic Optimism means. Then, we will examine some of the physical and mental benefits of being optimistic.
The Meaning of True Positive Thinking
Winston Churchill once said: “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” This sums up the true essence of positive thinking. An optimistic person reacts to problems with a sense of confidence and believes that adverse events are temporary and manageable.
According to psychologists, one demonstration of Optimism is called ‘explanatory style.’ Explanatory styles reflect how a person views a specific event. A positive thinker displays adverse events as external, changeable, and temporary, whereas a pessimist sees things in a different light. For example, take two students who had poor grades: the optimist thinks, “The test was difficult …it’s ok. It’s just one test, and I did well in other subjects, I’ll do better next time”. The pessimist thinks: “I am such a failure! I will never succeed in this subject. I can’t do anything right.”
Being optimistic does not equal being naïve or unrealistic and choosing to live in a fantasy world. On the contrary, it is a choice you make to look at the good in every situation. This may sometimes mean forcing yourself to see the light at the end of the tunnel even when all you see is darkness.
Because Optimism is a way of thinking, the good news is that it can be learned. Although current studies are focused on training young children to develop a definite thinking pattern, changing negative thoughts in adults is a possibility.
Benefits of an Optimistic Way of Thinking
Generally speaking, Optimism can have an overall positive effect on one’s health. However, four health benefits have been proven by scientific studies. Let’s discuss them one by one.
Optimism Improves heart health
Coronary artery disease is often caused by high blood pressure. To find out whether Optimism can have an impact on heart disease, scientists carried out some research. In this study, 1,306 men with an average age of 61 were evaluated. None of the participants had ever been diagnosed with coronary artery disease. Each participant was assessed for an optimistic or pessimistic explanatory style as well as for cholesterol, obesity, smoking, alcohol use, and other health issues. Even after taking all the risk factors into account, the most pessimistic men were more than twice as likely to develop heart disease over the next ten years.
Optimism reduces the risk of hypertension
In one American study conducted on 2,564 men and women who were 65 years old and older discovered the positive effect of Optimism. Using a four-item positive-emotion summary scale, participants were evaluated during a home visit. Other factors, such as blood pressure, height, weight, diabetes, and medication, were also noted. Even after taking all these factors into account, those who had positive emotions had lower blood pressures.
In another study that was conducted over four years, highly pessimistic men were three times more likely to develop hypertension than happier ones. This was despite all the risk factors such as smoking, obesity, and alcohol abuse.
Optimism affects surgery patients
There is also a link between positivity and recovery after surgery. In one study, 309 patients who were scheduled to undergo coronary artery bypass surgery were evaluated. Each patient underwent a psychological evaluation to measure Optimism. The patients were tracked for six months after surgery. According to the data, optimists had a 50% less chance of requiring re-hospitalization compared to pessimists.
A similar study was conducted on patients who were to undergo angioplasty. Pessimists were three times more likely to have heart attacks or require bypass operations than optimists.
Optimism increases longevity
If Optimism can reduce hypertension, have a positive effect on heart disease, and active protection after surgery, it is logical that it should also boost endurance. Studies conducted in the Netherlands and the U.S proves that it does.
One study conducted in the U.S evaluated 6,959 students when they started University in the mid-1960s. Within the next 40 years, 476 had died from different causes with cancer as the leading cause. The most pessimistic individuals had a 42% higher rate of death than the most optimistic.
Another study conducted in the Netherlands evaluated and tracked 545 men starting in 1985. In the 15 years that followed, optimist was 55% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than pessimists. In a different study, men and women between 65 and 85 were evaluated. In the nine years that followed, those who had an optimistic outlook enjoyed a 45% lower risk of death.
Why Optimism is so powerful
With all the research pointing to the fact that Optimism has a significant benefit on overall health, the question you may ask is ‘why’? What does Optimism do to our physical bodies, or is it just in mind?
Pessimists may argue that Optimism is a result of good health and a happy environment. In short, those who are healthy will have a more positive outlook than those who are ill. However, researchers can adjust the results for pre-existing conditions like hypertension and diabetes. They have concluded that poor health did not change the effect of a positive outlook.
Another possible explanation is that Optimism may have biological effects that improve health. One study of 2,873 men and women found that those with a positive outlook had lower concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol. Also, among women, a positive outlook was linked with lower levels of two markers of inflammation that increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Some also believe that the explanation has to do with behavior. Optimists may generally have better health because they choose to lead healthier lifestyles, create healthy relationships, and get proper medical care. According to some studies, optimists are also less likely to smoke, abuse alcohol, and more likely to exercise and follow medical advice.
A final reason for the health benefits of Optimism is it could be hereditary. There is a possibility that some genes predispose people to Optimism and that these same genes directly affect health and longevity.
5 Tips to Become an Optimist
If you are not a born optimist, there are still some easy steps you can take to start changing your mindset. Here are just five tips you can begin to apply.
Track your thoughts
You may not readily recognise how much of a pessimist you are so you need to start tracking your thoughts. Take note of what you tell yourself and pay attention to your inner voice. Notice all the negative assumptions and conclusions you draw in each scenario.
Write down your thoughts
Once you identify all the negative thoughts you have, write them down. Next to the negative thinking, draw a column for the evidence you have to support that thought. Lastly, bring a column that argues against that thought. If you are a constant pessimist, you may find it easy to write down your evidence for negative thinking. With practice, you will find evidence to argue against it.
Identify the purpose of your pessimism
Think of why you have developed a pessimistic outlook in life. Are you afraid to be optimistic and get disappointed? Has pessimism protected you from getting hurt? Analyze whether or not your negative viewpoint has helped you in life. Chances are, you still get hurt and face disappointments.
Look for the positive in situations
You are diagnosed with diabetes, but at least you had the chance to eat all the sweet stuff when you were younger. You can’t manage your home, but this allows you to move to that elderly independent living facility that has a swimming pool. Most situations in life, no matter how dire can be seen in either a positive or negative light. Start searching for the positive aspects of any case and in time you will start believing it.
Think of a positive mentor
We all have a friend or family member who is always cheerful no matter what life throws at them. Think of them as your mentor and ask yourself what they would think in a particular situation. This is a smart way of internalising the Optimism of others and making it your own.
Looking through rose-coloured glasses is one of the best ways to live a fulfilling, happy life. Whether you are already a positive thinker or not, it is not too late to change your perspective in life. Start by listening to your negative thoughts and creating a positive argument. In time, you will find yourself thinking more positively and who knows, you may slowing be adding years to your life.
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