You can be the pillar of health exercising regularly with a perfect diet, but apparently it doesn’t matter at all if your partner doesn’t have a positive outlook on life.
Researchers at Michigan State University looked at 4,457 heterosexual couples over the age of 50. They tested for the subjects’ levels of optimism every two years over the course of an eight-year follow-up period, testing everyone five times. The tests specifically looked at short-term memory and computational memory. The study was published in the Journal of Personality and was co-authored by MSU graduate student Jeewon Oh and Eric Kim, a research scientist in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The study found that people who were more optimistic had better cognitive function as did the people who were married to more optimistic people.
A major reason optimists tend to live longer is they have overall healthier lifestyles. They tend to be more active and eat better which contributes to their more superior cognitive function. They also are usually more connected to their friends and family which helps as well. And if you are married to a more optimistic person, you have a great example to follow in front of you.
“We spend a lot of time with our partners,” said William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology and co-author of the study. “They might encourage us to exercise, eat healthier or remind us to take our medicine. When your partner is optimistic and healthy, it can translate to similar outcomes in your own life. You actually do experience a rosier future by living longer and staving off cognitive illnesses.”
“There’s a sense where optimists lead by example, and their partners follow their lead,” Chopik said. “While there’s some research on people being jealous of their partner’s good qualities or on having bad reactions to someone trying to control you, it is balanced with other research that shows being optimistic is associated with perceiving your relationship in a positive light.
So what if you aren’t an optimist and aren’t married to one either? Good news. Optimism can be learned. “There are studies that show people have the power to change their personalities, as long as they engage in things that make them change,” Chopik said. “Part of it is wanting to change. There are also intervention programs that suggest you can build up optimism.”