December 7, 2010, Updated September 27, 2012

Research from a Tel Aviv University (TAU) psychologist shows that the right attitude toward both good times and bad could improve our mental health and helps us to cope with aging.

A study by Prof. Dov Shmotkin of TAU reveals that people’s wellbeing can be ascertained by their “time trajectory” – the way they perceive their past, present and anticipated future and compartmentalize their life into these periods.

The theory emerged from the study of patients who had experienced traumatic events, such as the Holocausst. “We discovered that overcoming trauma was related to how people organized the memory of their trauma on the larger time continuum of their life course,” he explains.

Shmotkin theorized that these coping mechanisms are also a part of the normal aging process.

He tested his thesis in collaboration with his former PhD students, Drs. Yuval Palgi and Amit Shrira, who studied participants with an average age of 92.

The best-functioning participants were those whose time trajectory appeared stable rather than “descending,” as was expected to occur in very old age, or “ascending,” as is normal for youth and adults.

“A person’s subjective time frame is key to the formulation of that person’s life story and well-being,” concludes Shmotkin.

The study was recently reported in the journal Aging and Mental Health.

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