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!