As we get older, paying attention to our brain health becomes increasingly important. We know that what we eat and drink has an effect, but did you know that who you surround yourself with can also impact how well your brain ages?
Researchers from Michigan State University have discovered that your spouse’s state of mind can affect your ability to retain cognitive function. Specifically, they say that having a partner who’s optimistic can help to keep your brain healthy over time.
Studies have already demonstrated that being optimistic yourself has benefits for your brain, but this was one of the first studies of its kind to try and understand how it works in relationships.
For the research, 4,457 heterosexual couples from the Health and Retirement Study were analyzed. Subjects were Americans aged 50 and up. At the beginning, each subject took a questionnaire that determined their level of optimism. Over the course of an eight-year follow up, their cognition was tested about every 2 years. The tests included assessments of subjects’ short-term memory and computational memory. What’s more, they were also also asked to rate their quality of memory in their day-to-day lives. According to the data, the researchers were able to determine that not only did optimistic people have better cognition, but those who were in relationships with optimists also performed better.
Of course, there are a lot of things that contribute to cognitive decline, including genetics and other lifestyle factors. What we can learn from this study, though, is that environment also plays an important role in how well our brains function, especially when it comes to the people we spend the most of our time with.
The researchers say that having a partner who’s optimistic might be extra motivating for us, helping us to keep ourselves healthy over time. “They might encourage us to exercise, eat healthier, or remind us to take our medicine,” William Chopik, co-author of the study, said in a statement. “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.”
So if you’re with someone who tends to look at the glass as half full, remember to express gratitude for them as they could be benefiting you in more ways than you know. Just as well, remember that you can also be the optimistic partner. Point out the good in things as much as you can, and you could help the one you love stay happy and healthy as you grow old together. What’s more rewarding than that?