Written by Jenny Smiechowski, staff writer for The Birches
Mark Twain once said: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” There’s more truth to this saying than you might realize.
Research shows that how well you age depends on what you think about aging. Do you think getting older is awful? That poor health is inevitable as you age? That all older people are frail? Then there’s a chance you’ll create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A 2017 study from the University of Michigan found that couples who view aging negatively end up less healthy and less mobile than couples who take a more positive view of aging. And a 2015 study from researchers at the Yale School of Public Health found that people with negative beliefs about aging are more likely to experience brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Looking at aging in a positive light, on the other hand, can help you stay healthy and happy as you age. A 2018 study from Yale University showed that people with a genetic tendency toward Alzheimer’s who held positive beliefs about aging were 50 percent less likely to develop the disease than people with negative beliefs about aging.
Research also shows that adopting a happy, optimistic outlook about life in general can relieve stress, support your immune system, prevent depression, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and help you live longer.
So what are you waiting for? Why not use positive thinking to age better? And why not start today?
3 ways to think more positively and age more healthfully
Changing your beliefs about life in general and aging in particular isn’t easy. Especially if you’ve held these beliefs for years…or even decades. But it is possible to shift your perspective with determination and diligence. Start by:
- Noticing your negative thoughts. Negative thinking can become second nature, so the first step to changing your negative thoughts about aging (or anything else) is to notice that you’re having them. Negative thoughts usually come with negative emotions, so any time you feel crummy—sad, depressed, angry, irritable—consider it a red flag. Pinpoint what you were thinking before you started feeling that way.
- Looking at the bright side. When you notice yourself thinking and feeling negatively, make an effort to look at the bright side. Every situation has positive and negative elements. You don’t need to deny that the negative side of a situation exists, just choose to focus on the positive more. If you’re struggling to see the bright side of a situation, ask an optimist in your life to help you.
- Figuring out what cheers you up. A negative state of mind can be stubborn, especially when something bad happens. But you can shift your mood during tough times by doing something that cheers you up. That might be watching funny cat videos online, visiting with puppies at your local animal shelter, dancing to your favorite song, hanging out with your kids or grandkids, or any other activity that makes it impossible for you not to crack a smile. Once you break that stubborn spell of negativity, it’ll be easier to see the positive in a bad situation.
Above all else, always remember: negativity is a choice. Choose not to waste your mental and emotional energy on negativity when it won’t give you anything useful in return. In fact, it will most likely take things away from you, like your health and longevity. And who needs that?
“Successful Aging at Home” is a blog series that helps you stay engaged socially, intellectually, physically and spiritually, so you can age healthfully and successfully. Click “follow” at the top of this post to subscribe to our blog and receive more helpful successful aging tips.