We’ve always heard that spending your life worrying, and the stress that comes along with it, is bad for you… bad for your health, your mind, your spirit. Now a major 20-year study on longevity has found just the opposite. Worriers actually managed to add years to life and outlived their more carefree counterparts, despite the downside of all that anxiety. This conclusion comes from a long-term study known as the Longevity Project that was started back in 1921 by Louis Terman a psychologist out of Stanford University.
Everyone tells you to be happy… enjoy life… but according to the study, this doesn’t keep you healthy. How healthy you are appears to come from a variety of things, including being active in middle and old age.
The research followed over 1,500 kids from the time when they were ten years of age, collecting details on family history, relationships, education, personality ratings of parents and teachers, hobbies, pets, job success and military service. Virtually every aspect of life was covered.
In 1991 researchers Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin decided to examine the data of this study to see how the personality of children might affect longevity. Originally the team thought six months would be needed for the project – it ended up taking two decades.
Beyond the rather surprising findings on worrying, the research also found…
- Divorce is bad for a man’s health, but doesn’t affect women. Less than one third of divorced men were likely to reach the age of 70.
- Those who were committed to their jobs and productive all through their lives lived longer than those who were less involved with career.
- Friends have a huge impact on how healthy (or unhealthy) you are.
- Pets improve well-being, but aren’t associated with longevity.
- Helping others does improve health and longevity.
It appears that contrary to what we’ve all been told, believing that all will be well might have you feeling better, but experts believe that it ends up also encouraging you to take more risks with your health. These people are less inclined to take care of their health because they leave it up to fate… they just don’t worry about those things. It appears the most prudent, persistent types actually stayed healthiest and lived longer.
And while worrying can be helpful when it encourages you to take action or work out a solution to a problem, when you’re preoccupied with “what ifs” and it starts to take hold of your thoughts, interfere with your daily activities, keeping you tense and on edge, impacting your sleep, then there’s a problem. The good news is that anyone, worriers included, can break this mental habit – you can train your mind to stay calm and look at things from a more positive place.
Here are some practical strategies for getting your worry under control:
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Worrying Can Help You Live Longer… Continued…
- Start by accepting uncertainty, work toward being comfortable with less than 100% certainty about what’s going to happen. Realize that worrying cannot protect you from unpleasantness, or prevent bad things from happening.
- Set up a worry period, a dedicated time and place for worrying. Keep it the same every day; capture worries as they occur to you on paper, but delay worrying about them until that time. Chances are, you’ll have forgotten them before you ever get chance to focus on them.
- Challenge negative thinking, instead of seeing your fears as facts; treat them as theories to be proven. Do the same for your thoughts of your own shortcomings, and try to evaluate them scientifically. It won’t take much of this for you to see what you’re telling yourself isn’t based in fact.
- Learn how to relax, to run off (or short circuit) your “fight or flight” reactions. Since you can’t be anxious and relaxed at the same instant in time, improving your ability to call on your own natural relaxation response is a fantastic worry-buster.
- Be good to yourself, find support, stay rested, limit caffeine and sugar, alcohol and nicotine, exercise as regularly as you can, and don’t forget to treat yourself once in a while as an antidote to spending your life worrying.