How To Live Longer: Be Positive

Want to live longer? Use positive words!

As a Personal Trainer I often scour through the latest studies for the up-to-date research on exercise and nutrition.

On one such recent ‘hunt’ I came across a very interesting study suggesting that the words we use could possibly predict how long we are going to live.

Sarah Pressman, of the University of Kansas, and Sheldon Cohen, of Carnegie Mellon University, published an analysis [1] on 88 autobiographies in ‘A History of Psychology in Autobiography’ in 2012.

The researches studied the autobiographies and looked for the following type of words:

  • ‘High activated positive affect’: words like happy, active, energetic, lively, enthusiastic.
  • ‘Unactivated positive affect’: such as calm, relaxed and content.
  • ‘High activated negative affect’: such as worried, jittery, distressed and upset.
  • ‘Unactivated negative affect’: such as sad, lonely, downhearted and hopeless.

They performed the analysis by counting the words for each category and comparing them to how long the psychologists lived.

The result:

“After controlling for sex, year of publication, health (based on disclosed illness in autobiography), native language, and year of birth, the use of more activated positive emotional words (e.g., lively, vigorous, attentive, humorous) was associated with increased longevity.”

How much increased longevity?

Those who used words with high activated positive affect lived an average of 5-6 years longer than those who didn’t.

Does a positive attitude increase longevity? Or are people that have a physiology that ages slower just naturally happier? Could the causal arrow perhaps shoot both ways?

Other studies suggest that forgiveness [2] and optimism [3] are also associated with longevity, too.

I don’t know for sure, But the take home message for me is: Be Positive. There could be a really big payoff.


Mark blogs at MuscleHack where you can discover the truth about how to gain muscle and lose fat with his powerful THT weight training program and growth fueling bodybuilding diet.

[1] Positive emotion word use and longevity in famous deceased psychologists.
[2] Forgive to live: forgiveness, health, and longevity.
[3] Dispositional optimism and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in a prospective cohort of elderly dutch men and women.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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