Optimists better at regulating stress
Research from Concordia University has confirmed what most of us had already assumed—optimistic people are much better at handling stress. The study found that people with more positive outlooks actually have more stable cortisol levels, a hormone related to stress, than those who view the world through a darker lens.
In a study of 135 adults aged 60 and up, saliva samples were taken five times a day to measure cortisol levels. Older adults were chosen because they often face age-related stressors and their cortisol levels have been shown to increase. People were asked to report on the stress they perceive in their day-to-day lives, and then identify themselves as either optimists or pessimists. Each person's stress was measured against his or her own average, painting a real-world picture of how individuals can handle stressful events.
The results indicate that pessimists tended to have a higher stress baseline in general, but also had trouble regulating their system during stressful events.
Interestingly, the study found that optimists who had generally more stressful lives showed higher cortisol levels than expected shortly after waking up. That, say the researchers, suggests that the hormone—generally linked to stress—also could be secreted when people are engaged and focused on what’s happening.