Thomas Jefferson once wrote that, “nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” More currently, the popular motivational speaker Zig Zigler said, “It is not your aptitude, but your attitude that determines your altitude.”
Attitude. There are literally thousands of studies and articles that discuss the impact having a positive mental attitude has on aging and longevity. In a review of 160 published medical studies, it was shown that people who had a positive mental attitude enjoyed better health and longer lives. This link between positive mindset, better health, and longer lifespan was actually shown to be stronger than the link between obesity and reduced lifespan.
Let’s look at some examples of how our attitude can affect us:
One medical study looked the relationship between anger and heart disease. The participants who demonstrated more anger were found to have 2.7 times more heart disease than the calmer participants.
Another study found that people who often felt anxious, unhappy, or depressed were twice as likely to have high blood pressure.
And in yet another study, feelings of frustration, tension, and sadness were associated with a doubled risk of ischemic heart disease.
Increased rates of heart attack were found in those who tend to worry, with the heaviest worriers increasing their risk for heart attach by 2 ½ times.
The evidence is clear. When we consider these alarming numbers, it is much easier to recognize the pure and positive value of the “Serenity Prayer.” The Serenity Prayer simply asks God to, “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
So, what can we do to brighten our outlooks on life? What can we do to improve our attitudes and, in return, gain more thriving and fulfilling years of life?
1. Wake up early. By getting up early, we can get a head start on our daily tasks, thereby reducing our stress. We’ll also have time for a healthy breakfast, improving both our worldview and our health at the very beginning of our day.
2. Exercise will do your brain and your body a lot of good. Nature has been shown to have a calming influence on psyche, so it would be ideal to spend some active time outdoors, enjoying the natural beauty that God has surrounded us with.
3. Plan ahead. When you know what you are planning to achieve in a given day or week, your stress level will surely dwindle. By the way, this works particularly well if you remember to wake up early!
4. Understand that things often do not go according to plan. Yes, planning ahead is a good habit to try and maintain but in the situation that something doesn’t work out as you had wanted, it is important to view the situation as an opportunity rather than a road block.
5. Get spiritually connected. As we’ve shown in earlier videos, having a relationship with God and being involved at church play significant roles in overall mental attitude and can significantly add to your lifespan.
6. Be thankful. Have you ever heard the phrase, “when life feeds you waves, learn how to surf”? No matter what, we can always find things to be thankful for. Try spending less time focusing on yourself and more time focusing on others—this sort of outward thinking will go far in improving your own mental health.
7. Spend time around positive people. Perhaps it goes without saying, but we often mirror the emotions of those around us. Consider who you choose to surround yourself with and make the conscious decision to be around people who will add cheer and love to your life.
Solomon, an ancient king of Israel and widely thought to be the wisest man to have ever lived once wrote, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” He reiterated this later, writing, “For the happy heart, life is a continual feast.”
In our goal to live longer and more fulfilling lives, attitude may be the most powerful medicine that I, as a physician can prescribe.