Why having a positive outlook is so important
Dr. David Snowdon is one of the many researchers trying to determine what factors/variables early on in life influence longevity and the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s. What is unique to Dr. David Snowdon are his study participants – 678 Catholic sisters living in convents across the United States.
One of his studies that I found particularly fascinating was one that investigated the association between emotional expressiveness and longevity. They were able to assess emotional expressiveness early in life using hand-written autobiographies which each sister was asked to write upon entry into the convent. In his analysis of these documents Snowdon divided the sisters into “listers” and “high-fidelity” who were sisters that wrote with sensuous detail and vivid feeling and appeared to be very positive in their disposition.
They found that sisters who were emotionally expressive or high-fidelity writers lived on average, 6.9 years longer than listers or less emotionally expressive sisters. Emotional expressiveness may be a result of a more engaging childhood, large social network, or genetic disposition, however, regardless of its etiology it appears to be very important in regards to the length of your life.
Take home message: Being positive early on pays off. It likely makes you more flexible, able to deal with and move through challenges, and find the silver lining. Thus, it will help mitigate stress and anxiety which have clear and strong associations with a variety of diseases. Being positive all the time is difficult however, I am going to make it a life-long priority to try.