Why optimism can make it more likely you’ll live longer and with less disability.

27 Aug

Our basic premise is that your body is amazing. You get a do over. It doesn’t take that long, and it isn’t that hard if you know what to do. In these notes, we give you a short course in what to do so it becomes easy for you, and for you to teach others. We want you to know how much control you have over both the quality and length of your life.

It is easy to postulate that if you are optimistic, then you’ll do more things to improve your health. For example, optimism can help you stay on track with exercise and lower your odds for dying within five years after a cardiac event by a whopping 40%! But there are many additional benefits that come from practicing optimism. They include:

Improved decision-making. Optimism enhances your ability to make good decisions under stress, a skill that can help you say “no thanks” to a coffee-break doughnut during a tough day at work, and “yes” to exercise (rather than chips, the couch and the TV remote) when you’re tense. And that means you’ll be better at solving whatever challenges life throws your way.

Stronger immunity. A bright outlook boosts an important defense against disease called “cell-mediated immunity.” How important is it? Very! It controls your body’s ability to fight invading bacteria and virus and helps battle some cancer cells.

A healthier ticker. Even if you’re at high risk for heart disease because of a genetic predisposition, family history, high LDL (bad) cholesterol, or elevated blood pressure and blood sugar, living with a sense of hope and well-being can lower your odds for heart disease by 30-50%.

Stroke protection. A hopeful outlook can cut your risk for a life-threatening, mind-damaging ‘brain attack’ by 10% or more. Why? Because positive people are more likely to eat a healthy diet, sleep better, and feel less stressed. But it may be something more than that. Optimism all by itself bolsters health in ways that remain mysterious.

PLEASE TURN OVER…

A younger RealAge. A healthy old age isn’t just a result of good genes. New data shows that North America’s longest-living citizens share a zest for life. They’re easy-going, upbeat, and social. So if you’re ready to gain those benefits of optimism, here are a few easy-going steps that can help you over to the sunny side.

Keep it real. Having unrealistically positive expectations or glossing over problems instead of solving them can backfire, triggering low moods.

See positive challenges instead of threats. Resilient people attack problems in everyday life, like a plumber who knows she’s got a well-stocked toolbox and plenty of experience dealing with similar problems when she’s called on to fix a leaky pipe. The job may be wet and dirty, but she has the confidence to meet the challenge and leave things dry and clean. Try to consciously make this positive mind shift when you feel defensive, threatened, or worried about failure. Just reminding yourself to think more positively is often all it takes, or so the science says.

Think loving thoughts. A short “loving kindness” meditation (focusing on feelings of love and compassion for yourself and others) increases optimism and makes you feel more connected to others. Spending time with friends is another important mood-booster.

Feeling good? Go deeper. People who pay attention to and enhance into their positive emotions are more able to overcome tough times. Perhaps turning up the volume on good feelings builds a reservoir of joy to see you through. Try noticing when you feel playful, serene, or spiritually uplifted and then ask yourself how you can heighten that feeling. It’s fun!

Thanks for reading. And feel free to send more questions, you can always send us questions at youdocs@gmail.com, and some of them we may know enough to answer (we’ll try to get answers for you if we do not know).

Young Dr. Mike Roizen (aka, The Enforcer)

NOTE: You should NOT take this as medical advice.
This article is of the opinion of its author.
Before you do anything, please consult with your doctor.

You can follow Dr Roizen (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories of the week) on twitter @YoungDrMike.

Feel free to continue to send questions to youdocs@gmail.com. You can follow Dr Roizen on twitter @YoungDrMike (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories of the week). The YOU docs have a new web site: YOUBeauty.com and its companion BeautySage.com the only site we know of where you can find skin products proven to meet the claims (opened for business on June 1st, 2012), and a new book: YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens.

Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. His radio show streams live on http://www.healthradio.net Saturdays from 5-7 p.m . E-mail him questions at YouDocs@gmail.com. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including : YOU Staying Young and YOU: The Owner’s Manual. He is Chief Medical Consultant to the two year running Emmy award winning Dr Oz show– The Dr Oz show is #2 nationally in daytime TV. See what all the fun is about, and what he, The Enforcer, is up to. Check local listings or log onto DoctorOz.com for channel and time. And for more health info, log onto youbeauty.com anytime.

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