Live long and prosper. What can you do to have a longer, happier life? In addition to a eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, life expectancy is related to your attitude, behavior, and beliefs.
Is the glass half full or half empty? Your attitude and perspective on the world contribute largely to your health.1Individuals who have a positive outlook when they are young tend to live longer.2 In a study where participants over the age 50 were followed for 30 to 40 years, researchers found that the individuals who had a positive attitude about aging lived about seven years longer than those who did not.3 Those who tend to hold on to negative emotions are more likely to experience harmful health outcomes, including heart ailments.4-6
If you find yourself feeling more hostile, bitter, and depressed, try to become an extrovert. Get involved in a community group, enroll in a community class, reach out to new people or try a new hobby that includes other people. Doing so will help you feel more positive and involved.
Just like keeping a positive attitude, personality traits impact longevity. Researchers have found that individuals who are more conscientious, organized, reliable, and competent live longer. A meta-analysis of 20 different studies dealing with a conscientious nature and longevity found that achievement (persistence, industrious nature) and order (organized, disciplined) were significantly related to longevity. Furthermore, conscientious people are less likely to smoke and more likely to have a stable marriage and job.7
By doing good works for other people, you can boost antibodies that stimulate the immune system, hormones, and cognitive function. Older individuals who volunteer have a sense of being needed and valued, which may be another underlying reason for greater longevity among those who volunteer.8
Reach out and get involved by becoming a mentor for an adolescent. People find great meaning in their service when they can help someone younger.
Socialize with Good Friends
Strong connections with friends can support a healthy immune system. Confiding in a good friend or family member can release negative emotions and tension. Furthermore, studies find that married people tend to live longer than those who are single.9,10
Prayer & Meditation
Our beliefs can play a role in overall health. Religious individuals tend to live longer by being involved in a community congregation. Additionally, religious people tend to avoid substance abuse that can weaken health. Researchers found that people attending a weekly religious service were 46% less likely to die over a six-year period than those who attended services less often.11 Furthermore, beliefs can bring comfort and peace to religious individuals, reducing negative stress and despair.
- Carver CS, Connor-Smith J. Personality and coping. Annu Rev Psychol. 2010;61:679-704.
- Ringbäck Weitoft G, et al. Is perceived nervousness and anxiety a predictor of premature mortality and severe morbidity? A longitudinal follow up of the Swedish survey of living conditions. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2005 Sep;59(9):794-8.
- Levy BR, Slade MD, Kunkel SR, Kasl SV. Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. J of Personality & Soc Psychol. 2002;83(2):261-270.
- Brydon L, et al. Dispositional optimism and stress-induced changes in immunity and negative mood. Brain Behav Immun. 2009 Aug;23(6):810-6.
- Stewart JC, et al. Negative emotions and 3-year progression of subclinical atherosclerosis. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007 Feb;64(2):225-33.
- Pedersen SS, et al. Type D personality, cardiac events, and impaired quality of life: a review. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2003 Aug;10(4):241-8.
- Kern ML, Friedman HS. Do conscientious individuals live longer? A quantitative review.Health Psychol. 2008 Sep;27(5):505-512.
- Gottlieb BH, Gillespie AA. Volunteerism, health, and civic engagement among older adults. Can J Aging. 2008 Winter;27(4):399-406.
- Johnson NJ, Backlund E, Sorlie PD, Loveless CA. Marital status and mortality: the national longitudinal mortality study. Ann Epidemiol. 2000 May;10(4):224-238.
- Kaplan RM, Kronick RG. Marital status and longevity in the United States population. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2006 Sep;60(9):760-765.
- Koenig HG, Hays JC, Larson DB, George LK, et al. Does religious attendance prolong survival? A six-year follow-up study of 3,968 older adults. J of Gerontology. 1999 Jul;54(7):M370-6.