Why Pessimism Is Hazardous to Your Health
Your outlook is a critical factor in determining your health as you age so take steps to make positive change now
Since I published my book, Up: How Positive Outlook Can Transform Our Health and Aging, I've been asked what's the most important factor for healthy aging. Is it our outlook, our risk factors for illness, like high blood pressure and obesity, or something else? Before I share my answer with you, let's explore how our outlook can guide us along a path toward healthy aging or, alternatively, disability and premature death.
From childhood to old age, our outlook fundamentally impacts our health and aging. It's the lens through which we view the world and it is characterized not by any single attitude, but by the shades of many traits. We all have positive traits, like optimism — the ability to see a bright future as real and to act to make it happen — being open-minded and living life with a sense of purpose. At the same time, we have degrees of so-called negative traits, like pessimism — expecting bad events in the future — hostility or anger and mistrust toward others.
Outlook is part of what makes you you. Up to half of our outlook is genetic — you may have inherited a happy-go-lucky streak from your mom or dad — but the rest bears the coloring and texture of our individual life experience, usually gelling into a unique and fairly stable perspective by age 20 or 30.
(MORE: It's Not Too Late (or Too Soon) to Get Therapy)
The idea that psychological traits influence our health and health-related behaviors has long been established, although many may not be aware of how early in life the associations form.