Have you noticed that some older adults continue to feel good and stay active well into their senior years, while others appear to age rapidly and experience increased health problems? Positive thinking may play a significant role.
Research published in Psychology and Aging, a journal from the American Psychological Association (APA), shows that while genetics and overall physical health play a part in how people age, positive thinking can also play an important role.
According to an APA news release, researchers found a link between positive emotions and the onset of frailty in 1,558 initially non-frail older Mexican Americans living in five southwestern states. This was the first study to examine frailty and the protective role of positive thinking in the largest minority population in the United States.
How Was the Study Conducted?
Study authors Glenn Ostir, Ph.D., Kenneth Ottenbacher, Ph.D., and Kyriakos Markides, Ph.D., from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, followed older adults for seven years to study their level of positive thinking in relation to their level of frailty.
Frailty was assessed by measuring:
- Weight loss
- Walking speed
- Grip strength
The study says that positive emotions (or positive thinking) were measured by asking how often in the past week participants had the following thoughts:
- “I felt that I was just as good as other people”
- “I felt hopeful about the future”
- “I was happy”
- “I enjoyed life”
There’s a Link Between Positive Thinking and Frailty
The report said that the incidence of frailty in the older adult participants increased overall nearly eight percent during the seven-year follow-up period, but people who scored high on positive affect or positive thinking were significantly less likely to become frail.
While researchers in the study couldn't explain why positive thinking or positive emotions reduced the incidence of frailty, they speculated that positive thinking may directly affect health via chemical and neural responses that help maintain an overall health balance.
Another possibility, according to the researchers, is that positive thinking can have a beneficial effect on people’s health by increasing a person’s intellectual, physical, psychological and social resources.
You Have a Choice About How You Think
I read somewhere that people can only hold one thought at a time. If that’s true, then you have a choice:
- Focusing on a thought that makes you feel bad
- Focusing on a thought that makes you feel good
Try to focus your energy on positive thinking rather than negative thinking, and look for reasons to feel happy and hopeful every day. If you put your energy toward positive thinking and ways to make your life more enjoyable, you may discover that positive thinking really does help you feel better.
Source: “Onset of Frailty in Older Adults and the Protective Role of Positive Affect," Glenn V. Ostir, Kenneth J. Ottenbacher and Kyriakos S. Markides, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; Psychology and Aging], Vol. 19, No. 3. (PDF format)