If you tend the see the glass half full, you're more likely to cope with stress better than someone who sees it as half empty. That’s the conclusion of new research that provides the first scientific evidence that optimism influences an individual's biological response to stress.
The findings, by Concordia University researchers in Montreal, indicate the "stress hormone" cortisol tends to be more stable in people with more positive personalities, giving them a leg up in managing stressful situations.
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For the research, investigators from Concordia University's Department of Psychology studied 135 older adults for a 6-year period, collecting saliva samples five times a day to monitor their cortisol levels as they went about their daily lives.
Participants were asked to report on their levels of stress and asked to identify whether they felt they tended to optimists or pessimists. Each person's stress levels were then measured against their own average. They results showed that pessimists tended to have a higher stress baseline than optimists, but also had trouble regulating their system when they go through particularly stressful situations.
"We asked people how often they felt stressed or overwhelmed during the day and compared people to their own averages, then analyzed their responses by looking at the stress levels over many days," said lead researcher Joelle Jobin.
"On days where they experience higher than average stress, that's when we see that the pessimists' stress response is much elevated, and they have trouble bringing their cortisol levels back down. Optimists, by contrast, were protected in these circumstances."
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