Apr 08, 2024

WINKEL: Smile big

Posted Apr 08, 2024 9:00 PM
written by: Karissa Winkel - Cottonwood Extension District
written by: Karissa Winkel - Cottonwood Extension District

Did you know that optimistic people tend to live longer? In fact, positivity adds up to 7.5 years to life! Higher levels of optimism are associated with reduced risk of certain diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke. This research suggests that embracing positivity may be a way to increase longevity and improve overall well-being.

Dr. Erin Martinez, Kansas State University Aging Specialist, tells us to “SMILE BIG.” The acronym can help us remember to be an optimist and reap the good of life:

· Successful aging requires practicing positivity. “If we have a positive attitude, we are more likely to make changes and implement healthy behaviors into our lives that are going to help us be successful as we age.”

· Manage our expectations. “We are not always going to be at the pinnacle of healthy aging, and that’s okay. We need to make our expectations something attainable.”

· Interact with positivity. “Research shows that when you interact with positive people and places, you’re more likely to embrace positivity as well.”

· Looking for positives. “We know that bad things happen sometimes, but when you take the time to truly reflect, I bet you’ll find something positive that came from the situation.”

· Escaping ageism. “Make it a priority to escape stereotypes associated with aging. Your age does not define who you are.”

· Being healthy. “We know that there are a lot of healthy behaviors that we should be doing, but we don’t always do them. Eating healthfully, exercising regularly, taking care of our brain…all of those things lead to successful aging.”

· ‘I Can’ approach. “Instead of saying, ‘I can’t do this or that anymore,’ take the ‘I Can’ approach. For example, ‘I can utilize a cane that will help me move around more safely…’”

· Give yourself grace. “Sometimes we’re going to mess up or have a bad day. We need to give ourselves grace so we’re not beating ourselves down when we don’t always embrace positivity. It is okay to not be okay.”

The “SMILE BIG” approach can be encouraging because it is a choice. Some factors in life are uncontrollable, but choosing optimism is something each of us has the power to do no matter our age. However, seasons of life may present circumstances that make optimism the difficult choice. So, I challenge you to smile big and spread positivity to all who cross your path.

Karissa Winkel is the Family and Community Wellness Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District. You may reach her at: 620-793-1910 or [email protected]. K-State Research & Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer.