Tip # 13 of 50 – The Longevity Project and a study of catastrophic thinking – “Don’t be a Chicken Little”!

By April 27, 2019Lifestyle, Our Stories
Grand Daughter and Grandfather

“Fifty Tips on Aging Well to Celebrate 50 Years of Excellent Service”

As The Wesley Communities approach 50 years of excellent service, our CEO Peg Carmany offers “Peg’s Perspective” on a variety of topics affecting seniors and their adult children as they plan and choose to age well – 50 tips to celebrate 50 years!

Tip # 13 of 50 – The Longevity Project and a study of catastrophic thinking – “Don’t be a Chicken Little”!

In 1921, Dr. Lewis Terman began a study of 1500 children who were born around 1910.  The lives of these 1500 children were followed and studied in meticulous detail over the course of their lifetimes.   Out of this now famous study, Dr. Howard Friedman and Dr. Leslie Martin began to study a different question:   who lived the longest, and why?     The results are revealed in The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight Decade Study. 

When the Terman subjects were young adults, they were tested for their “Chicken Little” qualities, that is, did they constantly think the sky was falling?  Also called “catastrophizers,” these subjects tended to see impending doom everywhere, and the trend, perhaps not surprisingly, shows that this trait is not good for a long life! In sum, the Chicken Littles died sooner!

The good news is that catastrophic and related negative thought processes can be changed.   The first step is recognizing thoughts for what they are – they are merely thoughts. If you start to think of “worst case” scenarios, you can literally say to yourself, “Stop!” This, followed by thought replacement (replacing the negative thought with a more positive one), can be very useful.

Remember, making changes to persistent patterns of negative thinking takes both patience and determination, but it can lengthen your life, and it can be done!

Source: The Longevity Project, by Howard S. Friedman, Ph.D., and Leslie R. Martin, Ph.D