Do you wish you were more optimistic? Would your life change if you had more confidence in a positive future? Would it affect your health, your relationships, your success? Would you live longer – and look forward to it?

There are answers to those questions. A study on optimism, lifestyle, and longevity was recently published by the Harvard School of Public Health in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The research, which analyzed 26 years’ worth of data from almost 160,000 women between ages 50 and 79, found that women are more likely to live past 90 if they’re optimistic.

Similar findings from other studies, including two studies published in 2019—one in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and one in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)—suggest that optimism leads to healthier ageing and the likelihood of “exceptional longevity.”

According to a June 2022 article in the World Economic Forum’s online publication, these findings point to a new angle on addressing our health—the necessity of new—or not yet widely explored— approaches to mental health.

Who are the optimists?

Optimism is simply a general expectation that the future holds good things for us. So, optimists have more positive presumptions about their future well-being. In their personalities, this reflects greater confidence, happiness, ease, and experiencing less distress in stressful situations. Are you an optimist?

A scientifically validated way to become an optimist

In 1976, a doctoral dissertation at UC Berkeley on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program practised by university students was published in Dissertation Abstracts International 38, 649A–650A. Benefits for students included:

  • Increased interest in academic pursuits.
  • A greater sense of social responsibility.
  • Increased psychological stability.
  • A stronger commitment to personal growth.
  • Reduced anxiety.
  • Greater optimism.

Dr Melanie Brown, the author of that dissertation, commented, “Like its cousin, happiness, optimism is a natural quality of human life, not relegated only to external events. When you practice TM, you physiologically shed the impediments to functioning in tune with your greatness, and your entire being and your outlook for yourself and the world emerges as a force for creating a great future.”

In the 46 years since that time, published research on people around the world who learned the TM technique has shown benefits that correlate with optimism, including:

  • increased happiness
  • higher self-esteem
  • decreased stress
  • reduced depression
  • diminished anxiety
  • more job satisfaction
  • improved spiritual well-being
  • more harmonious relationships

Also, fascinating to note, research on the population who learned the TM technique has shown a distinct slowing of the symptoms of ageing—such as increased cardiovascular efficiency, vitality, visual acuity, learning ability, and memory, along with reduced hypertension, insomnia, reaction time, behavioural rigidity, and cholesterol.

Whether TM increases optimism, which, in turn, creates many of these other benefits, or whether they develop hand in hand, the obvious call to action is to learn the technique—I’m optimistic about your future if you do.