Older adults with a more optimistic outlook experience fewer memory and judgement problems, new research finds.
Optimism has also been linked to desirable health behaviours like:
- Eating more healthily.
- Exercising regularly.
- Lower risk of heart conditions and stroke.
For the study, researchers followed around 500 older adults over four years to see if they experienced any cognitive impairments.
The results showed that the best mindset was optimism, which was linked to a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment.
Ms Katerina Gawronski, the study’s first author, said:
“We felt like this was an important topic to investigate and to our knowledge, it’s the first study to examine the link between optimism and cognitive impairment in older adults.
We found that optimism was indeed associated with better cognitive health over time.”
Best mindset can be learned
The good news is that optimism is not fixed in stone.
Exercises such as visualising your ‘best possible self‘ have been shown to increase optimism.
Here is how I’ve previously explained the exercise:
Visualising your best possible self may sound like an exercise in fantasy but, crucially, it does have to be realistic.
Carrying out this exercise typically involves imagining your life in the future, but a future where everything that could go well, has gone well.
You have reached those realistic goals that you have set for yourself.
Then, to help cement your visualisation, you commit your best possible self to paper.
This exercise draws on the proven benefits of expressive writing.
Dr Eric Kim, a study co-author, said:
“Therefore, optimism may be a novel and promising target for prevention and intervention strategies aimed at improving cognitive health.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine (Gawronski et al., 2016).