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In Season: Don't Sweat It

Don’t Sweat It

Staying Positive Impacts Longevity

We know that stress isn’t healthy, and can produce some very real physical responses that detract from our wellbeing. Now, physicians are starting to understand that how a person deals with stress can have an effect on longevity. Longevity was once thought to be primarily about genetics—and still is, on some level.

But more recently, doctors working with older patients are seeing they have something else in common: They don’t let the inevitable setbacks of life trip them up. Called “adaptive competence,” some studies are finding that attitude does indeed matter when it comes to lifespan.

“I define it loosely as the ability to bounce back from stress,” explains Dr. Mark Lachs in a story for NPR. “Many scientists view this solely as biological stress. But many of us who care for older patients see adaptive competence as psychologically critical as well.”

In fact, Becca Levy, a professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health and colleague of Lachs, studied the longevity of people in their 50s as a function of their perceptions about aging.

Those participants who agreed with statements like “Things keep getting worse as I get older” and “As you get older you are less useful,” died an average of 7 ½ years sooner than their more positive counterparts—even after she controlled for their medical conditions.

Shifting Your Perspective

Think about how you deal with stress, and if you see patterns of pessimism when faced with an obstacle, try to consciously shift your perspective. For example, would daily meditation help? When was the last time you had a massage? Are you getting enough physical activity? Is your diet well-balanced?

Staying positive isn’t always easy, but seeing the glass half-full can add years to your life—literally.

Source: This article was from excerpted from mtj® (Massage Therapy Journal®) Summer 2011. Subscribe to read the entire article.

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