While stress is a rather normal part of all of our daily lives, it can still be bad for your health. It can raise your blood pressure, and it can cause anxiety and other mental health problems, because it raises your cortisol—“the stress hormone”—levels in your blood. While we can never eliminate stress from our lives entirely, we can choose how we deal with stress when it does come our way. In fact, a new study out of North Carolina State University says that seniors who have a positive attitude about aging are better at coping with stressful situations.
This study looked at 43 senior adults between the ages of 60 and 96. On the first day of the study, participants were asked how they felt about aging. Did they feel as useful now as they did when they were younger? Were they as happy now as they were when they were younger? Researchers took note of which seniors seemed to have more optimistic, upbeat views on aging and personalities in general.
Researchers then had participants fill out daily questionnaires for eight days. These questionnaires asked participants to describe any stress that they had experienced during that day. Participants were told to describe which negative emotions they had felt as a result of the stress. They were asked to mention feelings like irritability, fear, or distress.
In the end, researchers found that the participants who had more positive attitudes about aging in the beginning were the ones who responded better to stress. The positive participants did not seem to have a significant increase in negative emotions, despite whatever daily stresses they had experienced. The participants who felt poorly about aging seemed to have very sharp increases in negative emotions due to stress.
Researchers say this study shows that our thoughts and our views on a particular topic, like aging, can potentially change our entire outlook on our daily lives. If we feel positively about aging and about ourselves, we may be able to respond better to difficult situations. Positive thoughts may be beneficial to our overall health, both mental and physical, and they may have the ability to give us a better quality of life.