Health Benefits of Marrying an Optimist

It is no secret that once in a relationship our mood synchronizes with our partner’s. When we are in a close relationship we are attuned to our partner’s needs and wants. We also tend to pay extra attention to their emotional cues to gauge their moods and respond to them accordingly. This deep connection that we share with our partners also means that our partner’s mood can be contagious.

If one person in the relationship is feeling a strong emotion the other is very likely to mirror the same. Some studies suggest synchrony in the production of the stress hormone cortisol in couples. So if one partner is having a bad day their negative mood is bound to rub off on the other.

Research conducted at the University of Michigan found that optimistic individuals contribute to better health of their partners. The study discovered that such people faced lower risks of Alzheimer’s, dementia and cognitive decline as they age.

A happier relationship results in lower stress levels which boost overall mental health. The researchers also concluded that optimistic partners are more likely to encourage healthy eating habits and exercise. Since previous studies prove healthy lifestyle choices prevent the onset of cognitive impairment, the findings of this research further strengthen these reports.

The research, which was published in the Journal of Personality by Jeewon Oh and Eric Kim, observed 4,500 heterosexual couples from the Health and Retirement Study for eight years. The researchers concluded a positive correlation between being married to an optimistic person and staving off risk factors leading to cognitive decline.

Optimistic people are inclined to helping their partner’s overcome a rough patch and motivate them to be better versions of themselves. People in a relationship with such people report feeling a higher level of satisfaction and happiness with the relationship. Such people also inspire a higher level of trust and security in their partners. Knowing that they have a secure relationship that they can rely on for emotional support makes people open to taking risks and makes them more resilient toward failure. All these factors contribute to a robust mental health and maybe the reason why such people are immune to cognitive impairment.

With numerous researches linking optimism to health benefits, medical practitioners ponder whether it should be prescribed to patients. While genes play a huge role, some researchers believe people can be trained to be positive thinkers.  William Chopik associate professor of psychology and co-author of the study states, “There are studies that show people have the power to change their personalities, as long as they engage in things that make them change. Part of it is wanting to change. There are also intervention programs that suggest you can build up optimism.”

Optimism in a relationship is infectious and leads to innumerable health benefits for the other partner.  So maybe it is better to hold on to those rose-tinted glasses and take a long drag from a glass that is always half-full.

Written by Farwa Batool

MSc Biotechnology.
Writer and a mom of two beautiful daughters.

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