Positivity alone will not increase your life span

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Guidance for dealing with any of life’s disappointments is often some version of “keep a positive attitude.”

Can’t connect with one of your dates? Stop being so critical. Stumbling after a cross-country move? Try to be more open and practice gratitude.

Staying positive is also important advice for anyone hoping to live a long, healthy life.

Centenarians, or people who reach the age of 100, often attribute their longevity to their positive outlook.

Ruth Sweedler, 103, told CNBC Make It that she was always praised for her good attitude growing up. “When I went to class, my teacher would say, ‘Good morning, sunshine!’ Because I was so cheerful,” she said. Madeline Paldo, 100, said she doesn’t get too stressed because “everything can be solved.”

Personality can be a “big factor” when it comes to longevity, says Petr Sramek, CEO of Healthy Longevity Clinic, a medical practice that strives to extend clients’ lives.

But it’s less about being positive and more about taking care of yourself. People with longer than average lifespans are generally more conscientious and more willing to heed medical advice.

Part of the Healthy Longevity Clinic’s treatments is to create a “road map” of habits or processes for clients based on various biomarkers, such as blood pressure or DNA. However, to implement the roadmap, the customer must be ready for change.

“If someone’s mental state is such that their health is out of their control, there’s nothing we can do because that person won’t follow the guidance,” says Shramek.

If someone is ready for change, successful treatment can improve their mood and make them even more open to other guidance.

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Let’s say a client has chronic inflammation, says Sramek.

“If inflammation levels are high, the body is in fight mode, which means it affects mood,” he says. “The person is still fighting something, even if it’s part of biology.”

If a person finds a way to reduce inflammation, they may in turn become a more agreeable person. But they must have the type of personality who is willing to ask for and accept help.

He says, “You can’t fix the mental problem without fixing the biology but vice versa – you can’t fix the biology without fixing the mental problems.”

This does not mean that positivity has no impact on lifespan.

“Stress can have a negative impact on your health,” says David Watson, a professor of personality psychology at the University of Notre Dame.

A positive person may be able to handle stressful situations better.

“Psychologically healthy people take a quicker time to recover,” he says. “They’re able to say to themselves, ‘It’s not a big deal.’ They find ways to get themselves back into that balance.”

But the personality trait more associated with longevity is conscientiousness, or the ability to be organized and hard-working.

Conscientious people are better at taking care of themselves and are more likely to keep up with medical appointments and curb bad habits. For example, they drink less alcohol and eat a more balanced diet, Watson says.

He says, “Honest people don’t do stupid things so they have lower accident rates and better health behaviors.”

You may increase your conscientiousness with age. There are even conscientiousness workshops that attempt to increase a person’s ability to self-regulate, says Watson.

He says, “The basic idea is that if you want to increase your conscientiousness, act more conscientiously and attitude follows behavior.” “Try to be on time for things. Follow up with things.”

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