Seven Years for Healthy Thoughts!

Seven Years for Healthy Thoughts!

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

"My health is going to get worse as I get older. That's just a fact of life."

"There is not much difference when you are 50 or 60 or 70. I'll enjoy my life ten years from now just as much as I do today."

Which one of the two statements sounds like you?

Psychologist Becca Levy of Yale University and her colleagues found that people who entertained positive thoughts regarding themselves and their future health lived seven years longer than those with negative attitudes. The finding was based on a study of 660 men and women in Ohio, age 54 to 94 followed for a period of twenty-two years.

According to the study, the perception of aging has greater impact on our lifespan than do the gender, socio-economic status or functional health.

Loneliness, which is associated with heart disease and poor health, does not have as much impact on life span as does the attitude towards aging.

We tend to regard medical disorders as the cause of poor health or shortened lifespan. But, really, their significance is small when compared to the impact of the psychological factors on health. The following observations point out the comparative significance of psychological and medical factors over health:

Lowered blood pressure or cholesterol is estimated to increase the lifespan by four years.

Exercise, weight loss or non-smoking is estimated to increase the lifespan between one to three years.

And how much is the increase associated with positive self-perception and attitude towards aging? Seven whole years!

So, if you have any health issues and/or didn't inherit the longevity gene, don't stop at just taking medication for blood pressure and cholesterol and the right diet. You can do more for yourself and add still many more years of better health.

Examine your thoughts regarding getting old. Do you associate aging merely with the creaky joints, shriveled body and failing memory? Or, do you associate aging with greater freedom, joy and pursuit of your most precious interests?

Merely taking medication and following the diet for your medical problem is not enough if you have a cynical attitude towards yourself and the world.

Some with chronic illnesses experience such negative feelings as shame, guilt or anger towards their own selves. In the presence of such feelings, you cannot maintain your motivation to aggressively pursue the things that are most beneficial for your health and satisfaction.

We want to do things to please, strengthen and nurture the people we like and love. We do that because we want them to be happy, healthy and live a long life.

But, would you wish health and long life for someone with whom you are angry and disgusted? If you are from this planet, you wouldn't.

So why should you be angry with yourself when you have a chronic and stubborn medical condition? You want to see yourself getting stronger and healthier, don't you? A good way to do that is by liking and loving yourself.

Your body and the mind have an enormous capacity to adapt, heal and grow. Without believing in the almost infinite capacity of the mind and body, it's impossible to realize your fullest potential. Believe that your mind and body have the capacity to meet the challenges you face.

Negative ideas and perceptions about aging are learned at a very early age. Children hear the negative pronouncements about old age and they see the elderly decline right in front of their ideas. The odds are already stacked up against them.

Many don't modify their early negative impressions in the light of the miraculous advance in medicine and living standards. As they grow older, they follow the old beliefs about aging.

It is good for parents to revise their own old conceptions about aging and the capacity of the mind and the body, and encourage children to form even higher expectations of themselves. According to the Mayo Clinic Proceedings of 2000, optimist patients live 19 percent longer than pessimist patients. This was proven to be true in a thirty-year follow up study.

Health for the most part is the human behavior. Our behavior is driven by our thoughts, emotions and attitudes.

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 2002, Mind Publications 
Posted November 2002


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