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Why positive thinking is the best way to get a grip

The power of positive thinking has been backed up by science. The more meaningful you believe your life to be, the faster you will walk, the stronger your grip will be and the less chronic pain you will suffer, a study says.

Researchers from University College London found that people who saw the things they did as being worthwhile were healthier as they aged. They had a higher concentration of vitamin D in their blood, healthier cholesterol and lower levels of inflammation. Andrew Steptoe, the lead author, said that the findings could help efforts to “tease out better ways to promote a good life in middle and older age”. Researchers used data from more than 7,000 adults aged over 50 who were taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. They were asked, on a scale of 0-10, how worthwhile they thought the things they did were. Their ratings were compared with data from physical tests and details from wider questionnaires.e Those with ratings of 9 or 10 walked 18 per cent faster than those with scores of 0-3 and had a 13 per cent higher concentration of vitamin D, which boosts bone and muscle strength. They were 40 per cent more likely to report good sleep and had stronger hand grips, a measure of frailty and risk of mortality. Four years on, they were faring better than those with low ratings. They were less likely to have developed chronic pain or depressive symptoms, or to feel lonely. They were more likely to exercise, spend time with friends and family, and work or volunteer. However, it was not clear whether people participated in those activities or had those characteristics because they felt their lives were worthwhile, or whether those activities and characteristics made their lives feel worthwhile. Professor Steptoe said: “This is a two-way process. Not only do good social relationships and better health contribute to our sense that we are living meaningful lives, but this sense of meaning sustains social and cultural activity, health and wellbeing into the future.”

The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

January 8 2019, The Times