Optimism is a trait that comes naturally to some, while others have to learn it. For those of you currently in relationships with an optimistic partner, it’s good news! Research shows that your cognition ages better as you get older alongside that person.
Researchers at Michigan State University found that your cognitive function is better off when you get older if your partner is an optimist, as reported by Healthline. The researchers studied 4,457 American heterosexual couples that were aged 50 and older over a period of eight years.
To begin, participants’ level of optimism was assessed through a survey. Then, cognitive function was tested every two years over the course of eight years with participants being assessed up to five times in that period.
According to Healthline, these cognitive tests revolved around memory and participants were asked to rate their recall in their everyday lives. Upon analysing these results, the researchers found that more optimistic people had better cognitive outcomes. And, that being married to an optimist had a similarly positive impact.
According to the researchers, cognitive decline can be the result of genetics and biological and lifestyle factors, like diet, weight and amount of exercise undertaken. Those who are optimistic tend to engage in more positive behaviours like healthy eating, regular exercise and preventative healthcare measures.
This is most likely why these people tend to have better cognitive outcomes and therefore encourage their partners to engage in similar healthy practices.
Roughly 25% of optimism is inherited (and baked into your personality) but it’s also a trait that can be learnt, said the study’s lead author William J. Chopik, PhD.
It doesn’t just boil down to being overly positive either. According to Chopik, having a sense of having done things well and being able to repeat this in the future is a common trait in optimists.
“Optimists think that their successes come from within; they think that their failures are caused by external things out of their control,” Chopik told Healthline.
“It’s quite a bias that they have but it often leads them to be happier and be successful over time.”
While practising optimism isn’t a surefire way to prevent cognitive decline, there are a number of helpful lifestyle behaviours you can engage in including maintaining regular physical activity and maintaining positive social relationships.
“Optimists (and partners of optimists) tend to do a lot of those things right,” Chopik said.