Optimistic people are fun to be around; negative people drain you. What if the boost from optimism or drain from pessimism was not limited to emotional effects?
When you ask someone how his or her day is going, do you REALLY want to know that he or she had a flat tire on the way into work, one child is home sick and they don’t have the money for the mortgage? If you live a negative life, then you can bet that everyone who asks you is ask the “how is your day” question rhetorically. On the flip side, if you just won the Lotto, your spouse just booked a trip on a Mediterranean cruise and your new stray dog that you rescued from abuse was house broken on day 3, then the question was NOT rhetorical and please share!
Time and time again in research studies we see that pessimism and optimism have direct impacts on health. Negative people tend to stress out more and we all know how much stress destroys health. All of this is clear. But just how far does the protection of optimism extend? This particular study starts to answer this very question. In it, researchers looked at 3940 adults (1970 couples) over 50 from the Health and Retirement Study. These couples were tracked for four years for how much optimism had an impact on spousal health and well-being. Here’s what they found:
- Being optimistic led to higher self-rated health, physical functioning and fewer chronic illnesses.
- Having an optimistic spouse also led to better physical functioning and fewer chronic illnesses.
- The strength of the relationship between optimism and health did not diminish over time (in other words, optimism exerted a constant benefit on health).
This study can be looked at in one of two ways. And I guess which way pops into your head first will tell you whether you’re an optimist or pessimist. First (the optimistic thought process) is that being happy and thinking positively is going to bring, not only your health and well-being up, but your partner’s as well. Pluses all around.
The second (the pessimist) thought is that being negative will drag your partner towards less health and well-being along with you.
Personally, my first thought when I read this was that my wife owes me dinner (at the least!).
The bottom line is that your thoughts do not affect just YOUR health. They affect the health of those around you as well. And you can bet that children are affected far, far more than a spouse is because children are so much more vulnerable emotionally. If you do not consider yourself a positive person, you do NOT have to be stuck there. There are any number of tips, tools and help available to turn yourself into an optimistic person. But first you have to admit that you have a problem.