optimists remain more stable in the face of stress

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Is the glass half empty or half full? You decide. But a new study has revealed that your disposition can predict your experience of stress.

For six years, Joelle Jobin, et. al. tracked dispositional optimism and stress in 135 community dwellers over the age of 60. Their study, recently published in Health Psychology, assessed the participants’ self-assessments of their stress alongside their cortisol levels (a stress hormone). The researchers wondered if optimism could be associated with a buffering of the stress–cortisol link.

The participants were asked to place themselves along a continuum as optimists or pessimists based upon their own subjective experience of their daily lives. For three non-consecutive and typical days of the week, participants completed questionnaires and collected saliva (from which cortisol levels were measured). These levels were compared to each participant’s own baseline averages.

The study reports that, “A large body of research has shown that optimism ameliorates the adverse consequences of stressful life experiences on individuals’ well-being and health.” In this study, Jobin and the rest of her team found that, “…pessimists’ absolute stress levels were higher than their optimistic counterparts’…,” and, “… dispositional optimism can moderate the associations between psychological perceptions of stress and increased cortisol secretion in a community sample of older adults.”

What this means is, as Jobin explained to Concordia University, “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.”

What does this mean for us? Similar to studies on luck, the mind is a powerful thing. The way you view yourself and the way your view the world has great impact upon your sense of well-being. So try to look on the bright side! It has high potential to help you, body + soul!

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About Jodi Rubin, ACSW, LCSW, CEDS

Jodi graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from SUNY at New Paltz and earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University. In addition to over a decade of work as an LCSW and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist with individuals, families and groups in her private practice, Jodi is a NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) Certified Personal Trainer and created Destructively Fit®, a training that addresses eating disorders within the fitness industry. She is a former director of Day Treatment at The Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders and a founding member of Metropolitan Psychotherapy and Family Counseling Practice. Jodi also specializes in infertility and has served on the Clinical Advisory Board of Seleni Institute since its inception. Jodi is the creator of a curriculum on eating disorders for the Graduate School of Social Work at New York University and has been teaching this course, as well as guest lecturing in the NYU Post-Master’s Program, since 2007. Jodi actively lectures and teaches students, families and professionals throughout the metropolitan area about the etiology, prevention, treatment, assessment and work with eating disorders. Through psychotherapy and supportive work with adolescents, adults and families, Jodi works to create a secure sense of self, increased self-esteem and a healthy relationship with self and others. She works with an eclectic person-centered approach and tailors her practice techniques to the unique needs of each individual. Please feel free to contact Jodi directly in her Greenwich Village office, 212.529.5811. View all posts by Jodi Rubin, ACSW, LCSW, CEDS

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