Incredibly good news

A study! And another study! And they're both good news. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

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I feel like I’ve been straining for good news recently. So, here’s some good news about good news, especially if you're the kind of person who wants to sleep better and live longer—maybe even many years longer.

(Honestly, who doesn't fit into at least one of those two categories?)   

Let's start with living longer. An enormous study combined two research projects that examined data on a total of 71,173 people—some of them over 30 years—and found that having an optimistic outlook on life was associated with living significantly longer.

How much longer? As much as 15 percent, which could easily translate to 10 years or more.

The researchers, from several institutions including Harvard, drew on data from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study (NAS).

They found that maintaining an optimistic outlook was associated with greater longevity than their less-optimistic peers, regardless of other factors that we associate with longer life, such as:

  • making healthy choices (or lack thereof),

  • socioeconomic status,

  • health conditions,

  • incidence of depression, and

  • "social integration."

“Our results further suggest that optimism is specifically related to 11 to 15 percent longer life span, on average, and to greater odds of achieving 'exceptional longevity,' that is, living to the age of 85 or beyond,” the study's authors wrote.

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

That’s pretty darn good news, right? Especially if you can train yourself to be the kind of person who instinctively looks on the bright side.

But wait, there's still more.

Separately, a five-year study of 3,500 people living in three different U.S. cities found that optimistic people fall asleep faster, sleep better and longer, and are generally better rested than their less-optimistic peers.

Longer life and better sleep, what's not to like?

The causal relationship between optimism and sleep isn't determined by this study, but one theory is that the behaviors that ultimately make people more optimistic also can lead to more restful sleep (as opposed to the idea that optimism itself leads to better sleep).

“Optimists are more likely to engage in active problem-focused coping and to interpret stressful events in more positive ways,” said the study's author, Rosalba Hernandez, a professor of social work at the University of Illinois, “reducing worry and ruminative thoughts when they're falling asleep and throughout their sleep cycle,”

Either way: Sleep better, and live longer, and it's all associated with simply having a more optimistic outlook on life. Even if it's all a self-fulfilling prophesy, it's one worth trying to adopt.


There are 15 days until the U.S. presidential election. As of yesterday, 27,732,584 Americans had already cast their ballots. Have you voted yet?


7 other things worth your time

  • This is a first world problem, of course, but interesting: here’s what life is like for Minnesota snow birds who are planning, because of the pandemic, to spend the winter in the snow for the first time in years. (Minnesota Public Radio)

  • Here’s what happened to the “nice guy” who ran for Congress against a QAnon-associated candidate. The election isn’t over yet, but the “QAnon candidate” has all-but-already won. (The Washington Post)

  • For the first time in my life, I’ve grown a beard since the start of the pandemic. I figured; I’m home 80-90% of the time, why not? So, I was kind of interested in this slice-of-life article about a trend of women in their 40s dying their hair unusual colors—basically, for the same reason. (WSJ, $)

  • A retired firefighter who was upset with Wichita’s mask ordinance was arrested on suspicion of threatening to kidnap and kill the mayor of Kansas’ largest city. (AP)

  • A bird — specifically, a “bar-tailed godwit” — flew 7,500 miles over 11 days straight from Alaska to New Zealand without stopping, breaking the longest nonstop flight among birds known to scientists. I read this article three times before I understood how they’d possibly know this, but it’s because the bird had been caught and outfitted with a tracking device in 2019. (Science Alert)

  • My friend and Inc.com colleague Jeff Haden wrote about how the death of Eddie Van Halen, and a conversation with a friend, made him reflect on an “uncomfortable truth about the power of praise.” (Inc.com)

  • Cape Cod officials to local residents: “We know about the enormous, unusual sunfish in the harbor that might well weigh as much as 2,200 pounds. It’s not a shark or a monster. Please stop calling the police.” (Cape Cod Times)

Photo credit: Unsplash. I wrote about these studies previously for Inc.com. If you liked this post, and you’re not yet a subscriber, what are you waiting for? Please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter, with thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers. You can also just send an email to signup@understandably.com. And now, you can also get it by text at (718) 866-1753.

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