Good news for those who look at life through a glass half full: Reacting positively to stressful situations may benefit your long-term health.
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University found that those who fail to keep a bright or calm outlook when experiencing minor, everyday stress appear to have higher levels of inflammation compared with their more cheerful counterparts.
Inflammatory responses occur when the body begins to battle pathogens, injury or stress. They're crucial for the body's immune system, but long-term exposure to elevated levels of inflammation may pose major health risks. Chronic inflammation has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.
For the study, more than 800 adult subjects were interviewed for eight consecutive days on their daily stressors and their emotional reactions. This allowed researchers to examine a person's responses on days when they experience stress compared to days when they're more relaxed. Corresponding blood samples were taken in order to measure inflammatory markers in the body.
The results, published in the journal Health Psychology, showed those who had a more negative reaction to daily stressors seemed to have elevated levels of inflammation in the body. Women in particular also seemed to be at a heightened risk for inflammation.
How the participants reacted to the stress was the biggest indicator of any elevated levels of inflammation, according to the researchers.
"A person's frequency of stress may be less related to inflammation than [their] responses to stress," study author Nancy Sin, a postdoctoral fellow in Penn State's Center for Healthy Aging and Department of Biobehavioral Health, said in a statement. "It is how a person reacts to stress that is important ... Positive emotions, and how they can help people in the event of stress, have really been overlooked."
It appears that an upbeat attitude may give our health and well-being an overall boost. The findings add to a large body of research that supports a sunny disposition when it comes to physical health. Previous research suggests that a positive outlook may help speed up patient recovery from a health procedure, while a 2015 study found that optimism may even benefit heart health.
Now that's what we call a silver lining.