And all this week and year you were thinking stress was a negative life force.
Now we know that all those annoying people who are always looking at the bright side of life may in fact be hurting themselves. “Hey, on the bright side, nuclear war will shorten the Disney World lines.”
Being optimistic tends to become overly-optimistic, new research shows, and can result in an increased inability to handle bad news when it inevitably comes.
Conversely, people who are pessimistic (besides being more realistic in today’s world) and depressed are better prepared for bad news, it seems.
In laboratory experiments, British researchers created stressful situations. They informed 36 younger males and females they had to give an unexpected public speech.
Researchers then told the volunteers either good or bad news, that the likelihood of experiencing these bad events was lower or higher than they had estimated.
Those who received bad news produced increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which helped them process the bad news.
Dr. Neil Garrett, the study’s lead author and a psychologist at University College London, said:
“Humans are better at integrating desirable information into their beliefs than undesirable.” This can be very dangerous, he said, especially in occupations like firefighters full of life-threatening situations.
But such preparations as the research suggests can help subjects produce a more realistic assessment of the immediate dangers and take appropriate precautions that they might otherwise reject due to over-optimism.
But wait! Maybe we should really be stressing out some more over having been too optimistic about handling stress all this time.