Personality Traits that Lead to a Longer Life

Author: Diane Dean, RN, LPC

Can money buy you happiness? It certainly can’t hurt. Many of us are of the “have-do-be” mentality: “When I have (a boyfriend/good job/money/a slim physique/etc.), then I will do ________ and I will be (happy/successful/fulfilled). It seems that we have this backward. Researchers show that it’s who we are, rather than what we have, that creates happiness. Thus, when we have a be-do-have mentality, we fare better in life.

Lewis Terman, a Stanford University Psychologist, studied 1500 children for 80 years starting in 1921. The results of this study surprisingly show that it was not happiness, positive attitude or sociability that determined those who lived longer. It wasn’t frequency of medical care or necessarily genetics that created longevity. It was living deliberately, being conscientious.

Being prudent, organized, focused and persistent remained the foremost key factors in terms of longevity. Many say that this is due to those who are conscientious being rule-followers. They wear seat belts, take medicines as prescribed, follow their doctor’s advice. They take things seriously. Those who are dependable also tend to be resilient. They develop healthy coping strategies and despite being dealt their share of tragedy and misery, they bounce back. This trait—being conscientious—will also likely lead you to find and have healthier and more fulfilling relationships. And strong connections improve the quality (and perhaps the quantity) of life. Lastly, those who are conscientious tend to develop and experience more career success, creating longer-lasting happiness.

Just how do you become conscientious? Some say that it has something to do with our brain chemicals. Studies support that Gotu kola enhances focus and memory, without inducing hyperactivity. Panax ginseng may improve thinking and memory. We can also train our minds to be more focused and deliberate. Studies support that those who practiced focusing for eight weeks experienced observable differences in the grey matter of their hippocampus—a part of the brain associated with memory and learning. And test scores and memory improved, even with a mere two weeks of practice.

The good news here is that you don’t have to have obsessive compulsive disorder to hone this trait. For best results:

• Be prepared
• Plan the details of your work
• Put things back in their proper place
• Follow a schedule

Working to master these four basic strategies may help you do more than just grin and bear it in life!

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