Positive Thinking

Attitude to aging is key to optimal health!

Research shows people who live the longest have a relaxed and positive outlook on life. It turns out, attitude is key to longevity! Changing the way you think about aging might be one of the most important ways to stay healthy.

  • Your thoughts and thinking patterns play an important role in how you age and manage changes throughout your life. How we think about aging influences the aging process itself! And, with a positive outlook, you are also more likely to engage in activities that lead to optimal aging.
  • Being a senior is different from how it used to be: people reach 65 in better health and then live longer than ever before.
  • We now know that brains are not prewired to fail, and that depression and senility are not usual parts of aging.
  • Many health problems and diseases are not due to age but inactive lifestyle – our brains and bodies are designed to be active.
  • Some mental processes such as those involved in empathy, emotional stability and complex decision-making actually improve with age
  • Studies suggest that self-rated happiness increases with each decade, despite losses or challenges associated with aging.
  • Aging is a cause to celebrate – each year is another chance to savour and enjoy your life.
  • Recent research shows that how we think about aging can impact the aging process itself. Thinking positively about aging has been linked to:
    • Faster and better recovery from injury, or disability
    • Lower risk of chronic disease
    • Lower risk of memory loss
    • Increased likelihood of help-seeking, including preventative medical care
    • Less isolation and loneliness
    • Making the best of negative experiences, and handling stress better
    • Increased longevity of life

Where to start?

Changing habits in our thinking isn’t easy- but it is possible to do – at any age! Try out one (or more) of these suggestions:

  • Rethink stereotypes about aging. Some people might think that retirement implies irrelevance, physical illness suggests hopelessness, or aging means sadness and loneliness. But these are not necessarily true! Research actually shows that self- rated happiness increases with each decade after 50, despite the losses or challenges associated with aging.
  • Practice positive thinking. Identify challenging situations or conditions like include medical conditions, grief, pain, mental illness, retirement, financial or relationship changes.
    • Be aware of your thoughts, emotions and beliefs about these situations or conditions and be prepared to challenge them.
    • Identify unhelpful or inaccurate thinking.
    • Challenge negative or inaccurate thinking. Ask yourself whether your view of a situation is based on fact or on an inaccurate perception of the situation
  • For many of us, positive thinking is an ongoing challenge. Here are some day to day tips for encouraging positive thoughts and actions.
    • Remind yourself that no one is perfect and we all make mistakes – give yourself a break too.
    • Avoid negative environments that get you down.
    • Spend time with people who are positive and encouraging.
    • Make a list of the things you are grateful for and a list of good things about yourself – read it often.
    • Be on the lookout for your own negative thoughts and try turning them into something more helpful. Instead of “This is impossible” try “What will make this easier?” or “Who can help me with this?”
    • Ask yourself how negative stereotypes affect you, and consider what you think is valuable or challenging about the aging experience. Talk to your friends and family about how you feel.
    • Habits can take a long time to change but keep at it! Helpful thinking patterns can be learned through practice.

Set a goal!

Set a positive thinking goal from the list above, or choose one of your own. Remember the more specific, measurable and realistic your goal is, the more likely you are to succeed!

For example, if your positive thinking goal is to pay more attention to negative thoughts about aging, make it more specific. Complete a list of your negative thoughts, or try our short positive thinking exercise on the Resources page.

Once you set your positive thinking goal, keep track of it by emailing your goal to yourself, or share it with others by email or facebook~ you might just help to inspire someone else!

Share your goal:

Still not sure what to do?

Learn more about the science behind positive thinking in our Evidence Base and try out our Gratitude, Positive Thinking, and Values exercises available on our Resources page.