Smile—and Age Easier!

Thinking positively about your older days can go a long way in terms of easing the aging process. The wealth of scientific research on our perceptions of aging was nicely summarized in a recent Wall Street Journal article. According to a survey, younger adults often associate aging with negative setbacks, which is actually far from the truth. Here’s why, and what it means:

Avoiding Negative Perceptions
Many different negative stereotypes exist, even for innocent processes like aging. As is the case with many stereotypes, many of the cliches about aging aren’t always true—but they can have a negative effect on how people age. Meta-analyses (studies that compile and analyze many other studies) have shown that people with negative perceptions about aging may actually have lower cognitive and physical function as they age, and that the adverse effects of negative perceptions are stronger than the good effects of positive aging images. Unfortunately in today’s world it is difficult to avoid negative stereotypes of aging, as media like cartoons and television programs often portray the elderly as frail or forgetful. So, what should you do?

Staying Positive Is Important for Your Health!
Studies have shown that as soon as you’re aware that you’ve been negatively biased towards a certain stereotype, you reduce your biases, even towards yourself. And, various studies show that having a more positive attitude towards yourself can in fact improve all aspects of health! In fact, having a positive attitude about aging may reduce the risk of various age-related diseases/conditions by as much as ~18%. Similarly, studies show that a positive attitude may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, a disease that is more common in an aging population. Other beneficial effects of a positive attitude about aging may even include improvements in working memory.

So, don’t be sad about the fact that we are all aging—it’s not worth it. Instead, stay positive. It may even keep you healthier!

(Feature photo courtesy of Rudy Anderson, https://pixabay.com)

Marcel Davidse

Marcel Davidse was an intern with the Healthy Aging Project in the fall of 2016, and graduated in December 2016 from the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder.