Have you ever pondered how it is your optimistic friend always seems to be untroubled with stress? Scientists have already determined the reason behind that.
Researchers from Concordia University found that optimistic individuals’ stress hormone levels remain more stable in the face of stressful moments compared with their pessimistic counterparts.
According to study researcher Joelle Jobin, who is a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at the university, on days where the people subjected to the experiment experience higher than average stress, that’s when we see that the pessimistic individuals’ stress response is much elevated, and they have trouble bringing their cortisol levels back down.
The small study, results of which are published in the journal of the American Psychological Association’s Health Psychology, included 135 people ages 60 and older who were followed for six years. This age group was selected because older adults often face a number of age-related stressors and their cortisol levels have been shown to increase. During 12 different days throughout this time period, researchers collected saliva samples five times a day to measure their levels of the stress hormone cortisol. They also asked the participants how many times they felt stressed/overwhelmed in a day, what level of stress they thought they experienced typically, and whether they considered themselves optimists or pessimists.
Then, researchers compared the cortisol levels of the participants on individual days to the average cortisol levels they experienced throughout the years, in order to gage how much levels fluctuated up or down. They found that the optimistic individuals’ cortisol levels were less likely to rise significantly on stressful days compared to their average stress levels, while pessimistic individuals’ cortisol levels were more likely to be elevated compared to their average stress levels.
The study generally confirmed the researchers’ hypotheses about the relation between optimism and stress. Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach the unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst. Through this your stress can be relieved.