Research Shows This Simple Tweak Could Add 7.5 Years to Your Life

Mental health experts explain how this works.

You've likely heard about the power of positivity. There's also the idea of manifestation, which has recently surfaced in the form of the Gen-Z-backed "Lucky Girl Syndrome."

The whole idea can feel kind of hokey. But, when it comes to aging, the power of a positive attitude has some science behind it.

A 2002 study found that people with positive self-perceptions of aging lived 7.5 years longer than those who didn't share this mindset. The researchers looked at 660 people ages 50 and older and measured their perceptions of aging up to 23 years before completing a final analysis.

"One of the oldest findings in peak performance aging is that aging is as much a mental as a physical process," says Steven Kotler, author of Gnar Country: Growing Old, Staying Rad, released Feb. 28.

Kotler agrees with the research that mindset shifts can go a long way in increasing longevity.

For example, Kotler suggests taking the mindset of "I’m excited about the possibilities in the second half of my life, and I think my best years are ahead of me."

The affirmation sounds nice. But aging is often viewed through a highly physical lens, such as wrinkles or reduced speed. Below, experts share exactly why adopting a positive mindset around age is so important, and how to adopt a more positive outlook on life as you continue to blow out birthday candles.

Why Mindset Matters With Aging

We constantly hear about ways to keep ourselves physically well as we get older. Exercise, slathering on sunscreen and eating nutritious foods are just a few examples of this, and clever marketing for makeup, skincare and cosmetic procedures doesn't help.

"[The focus on physical] has always been the stereotype with aging," says Dr. Lee Phillips, EdD, a Manhattan-based psychotherapist. "Our bodies are going to change, and they are going to age."

But Dr. Phillips says the idea that mindset plays into longevity isn't woo-based—it's evidence-based.

"A mindset shift can add years to your life because you are looking at life through a different lens with positive thinking, and this is healthy," Dr. Phillips says.

Other experts agree that our thoughts influence our behavior and, therefore, our bodies.

"If one holds a negative, limiting belief about aging, such as that life is over after age 50, that it is all downhill, then the body and mind will follow that direction," says Dr. Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD, C.Ht, licensed clinical psychologist and author of YOU-TURN: Changing Directions in Midlife.

But the opposite is also true.

"If a person chooses to plug into a more positive belief about aging—that they can be the best they can be at any age and see the special beauty in every age—then their subconscious will manifest this," Dr. Irwin says.

Related: The Top Foods for Longevity, According to a Study

Why Shifting Your Mindset About Aging Isn't Easy

The good news? You can shift your mindset if you're currently in doom-and-gloom mode about aging. "Beliefs can be changed; they are not facts," Dr. Irwin says.

However, this is often easier said than done.

"It can be hard mentally because we may not want to accept that we are getting older," Dr. Phillips says. "Some people may be fearful of the future. People may ask, 'How will my relationships change? Will I be able to physically take care of myself? What will I do after retirement?'"

But it's a long game that doesn't require perfection or 24/7 happiness. "We cannot be positive all the time, but having a mindset shift with new goals in your life is a motivator to work through difficult situations," Dr. Phillips says. "Working through conflict and other difficult situations adds years to your life because of resiliency."

Related: The Secret to Happiness, According to Science

How to Shift Your Mindset About Aging

"Shifting your mindset requires changing our language and how we evaluate situations," Kotler says. "Be curious. Notice places when the voice in your head says things like, 'You’re too old for this' or something similar."

But what do you do if that voice inside your head has that familiar refrain on repeat? Experts shared ways to shift your mindset about growing older.

Related: What Is Lucky Girl Syndrome? I Tried the Trend

Give acceptance a chance

No product or procedure can turn back the hands of time completely. Aging is a natural process, even if some tools can slow it down.

"Accept body is getting older," Dr. Phillips says. "Acceptance is not positive or negative. It is a state of being in the present moment. Being in the present moment allows us to engage in a mind shift by accepting where we are and how to live the best life with our current age."

Try therapy

Mindset shifts aren't easy, and there's no shame in feeling like you can't do it alone. You don't have to.

"Psychotherapy is important because a therapist can help shift and challenge your thinking using supportive therapy, cognitive therapy, and mindfulness and acceptance-based strategies," says Dr. Phillips, who recommends searching for providers via Psychology Today.

Take care of your body

Exercise and diet are often recommended for their physical benefits. But they can help the mind too.

"Exercise is great because you are regulating your nervous system, and this plays a motivator to shift your mindset because you are gaining the energy to do so," Dr. Phillips says.

Dr. Phillips notes that what we put into our bodies can help how we feel as well.

"Changing how we eat can also help with the motivation in changing our mindset because we can continue to feel physically and mentally well," Dr. Phillips explains. "Foods with too much sugar can cause inflammation in the body, making us feel fatigued and less motivated."


You may hear people recommend journaling in passing. But how can you really use this practice to shift your mindset?

Start with trying to pinpoint what triggered your current less-than-positive outlook on aging.

"Who trained you to be negative or expect the worst?" Dr. Irwin asks. "Write down the beliefs you'd like to hold in order to be positive and expect good things. This is a great process to begin to change your own programming if you choose to do so."

Get social

Aging can feel isolating, so try to get out and socialize. "Being with other people who share our same goals provides us with the desire to shift our mindset because we are learning how others do it," Dr. Phillips says.

Dr. Phillips suggests finding groups through your local church or community. Meetup may also have fun group activities in your area.

Next up: Are Cashews Actually Good For You?