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New Studies Show The Right Mindset Can Lengthen Your Lifespan

By KellyRose McAleer - November 26, 2014

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There are lots of sayings like “mind over matter” which illustrate how powerful the brain can be when it comes to not feeling pain, or acting determined when pursuing our dreams. Our minds are the driving force behind our survival, and our perspective filters everything we do or experience. But our brain might be even more powerful than we previously thought, with a recently discovered, powerful effect on our body. Your everyday mental outlook can affect how you are aging physically, and even help extend your life.

You Are As Young As You Feel

As we get older and hit certain decade milestones we start to remember stereotypes of older people we’ve seen on TV, and worry about growing into those memory-frazzled, fragile characters. Unfortunately, the power of suggestion is so strong that after a study in Texas asked seniors to take a memory test, the participants reported feeling five years older afterwards – even when they had done well on the memory test!

Researchers from Yale and Berkeley decided to put the power of positive thinking to the test. For four weeks, test subjects from age 61 to 99 met with researchers for 15-minute sessions. The group who was shown words such as “wise,” “senior,” and “old” had no physical improvements after the study when it came to walking, balance, or rising out of their chairs. However, the group who spent their time writing about physically active seniors showed more physical improvements in their own fitness than another study that had its participants do six months of exercise. The results are clear: our bodies are much less limited than we perceive them to be. Being surrounded by senior stereotypes in marketing and movies which create negative connotations of older people actually prevents them from being their healthiest selves.

Feel in Control? You Are.

Do you want to live longer? Well, it’s all about perspective according to the findings of researchers at University College London. The study monitored 9,000 subjects who averaged age 65, and followed up with them eight and a half years later. In addition to questions about their physical health habits, people were asked questions to evaluate their subjective well-being: about their sense of purpose, control, and if what they did was worthwhile. Those who said that they felt the most fulfilled were a third less likely to die during those eight years than those who felt least fulfilled. Even when taking into account other health factors, there seems to be a relationship between physical health and wellbeing: if one suffers, the other follows.

The professor who led the study, Andrew Steptoe, noted that previous research has found a correlation between happiness and a lower risk of death. Therefore it is not surprising that those with a strong mental outlook who felt in control and ready for each day lived longer. While correlation is not the same as causation, older adults with meaning and a purpose in their lives really do seem to survive longer. It could be that having a reason to get up in the morning and go through your day affects your hormones, which helps to lower blood pressure and stress and thus benefit your physical health. The good news is, your perspective is in your hands – if you don’t feel like you have a purpose, you can still go find one.

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