There are many factors that affect life expectancy. You probably know some of them. Heredity, alcohol consumption, drug addiction, high levels of unabated stress, cigarette smoking, and lack of exercise are all risky to long life. Poverty poses a risk to life expectancy, and so does living in a neighborhood where there is the threat of violence. Smog affects longevity, and so does poor diet and lack of preventative medical care. Untreated diabetes and obesity have a negative influence on longevity. Even untreated dental disease can cut life short.
The most interesting phenomenon that affects life expectancy is negativity.
* Why Does Negativity Shorten Life? *
If you look up centurians, people who live over 100 years, they all have the same thing in common - optimism. Many of these optimistic centurians should have died long ago because of chronic illness, diet, smoking cigarettes, or drinking alcohol. Yet, they are thriving.
* Pessimism Causes Physical Problems *
Pessimism causes the body to release certain hormones and neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that accelerate heart rate and raise blood pressure, increase rate of breathing, and activate the flight-or-fight response of our parasympathetic nervous system. We humans developed this response thousands of years ago in response to danger and threat of peril. It was vital for running from Saber Tooth Tigers and hostile tribes! It is still necessary for our survival when faced with immediate threat. However, the parasympathetic nervous system was intended to resolve itself and return to normal rhythms after the danger has passed.
* Living With Stress *
Unfortunately, our stressful lifestyle today oftentimes activates our parasympathetic system's fight-or-flight response for much longer than it as ever meant to operate. This overuse of our fight-and-flight response can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, excessive anxiety, depression, and a host of other ailments that can significantly shorten our life expectancy.
You would think that with all of today's knowledge and technology, we would have discovered an instant cure for the simple malady of pessimism!
* Cultivate Optimism *
Optimism is a learned behavior. If we didn't learn it from our parents growing up, we can learn it later on. I would recommend the book, "The Feeling Good Handbook" by David D. Burns, M.D. Writing down a list of positive affirmations and referring to them often is helpful in learning to be optimistic. If you Google "Positive Affirmations" you will find an abundance of them. Developing spirituality and learning forgiveness can help produce a happier outlook on life.
* The Good News *
Optimism is free. It is preventative and has the added benefit of releasing endorphins (hormones that produce happiness) and dopamine (a neurotransmitter that gives us a feeling of wellbeing). Why wouldn't we want to learn optimism?
Believe it or not, there are people who would rather trudge through life as pessimists.
If you are one of those, well. . . you're on your own!