It seems like just yesterday when my brother brought home the VHS of Monty Python’s The Life of Brian for family movie night. Despite the fact that I was scarred for life after watching it at age 8, there was one scene that has always stuck with me. Without giving too much away (for those 7 of you who haven't seen it), the protagonist gets himself into a very precarious situation and with death imminent he breaks into song. That song? “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.
Turns out he was more right than he knew!
According to a multi-decade study involving almost 70,000 participants, people were able to live 11-15% longer by doing one simple thing: having an optimistic view on life. That’s it. Even for controlling for all the environmental and demographic factors (age, educational attainment, chronic diseases, depression and also health behaviors, such as alcohol use, exercise, diet and primary care visits), the results stuck.
All the pills, all the health hacks, all the insane diets we deal with and it turns out that just seeing that glass as half full can tack on 7-10 years of life on average.
What’s more is this study is not a one-hit wonder. A 5-year study in Britain in 2015 of nearly 4,000 people demonstrated similar outcomes. In this analysis, people were asked to report their level of emotional well-being 4 times a day for 5 years. Bottom line? They found that the happiest and medium-happy people were 35% and 20% less likely to have died over the 5-year period, respectively, than their gloomier counterparts. Wonder how Brexit is going to affect this one?
Another 75-year long study (!) from Harvard showed similar results - in fact, you can watch the TED talk here.
Here’s the bottom line - I always evangelize sleep, greens, movement, water and gut as the 5 things to achieve better health. Looks like we might need to add another - being happy. Even though the studies are full of causation and not correlation, the results in these multi-year longitudinal analyses are difficult to argue with. And why would you? Seems like that is step one to living longer - accepting blessings with grace. In this case, the blessing is science and your grace is embracing it.