Could our personality really help us live healthier and happier lives?
Well, according to a new study, the answer is yes. It turns out our personality type has a direct impact on our health.
Researchers analysed data from 60,000 respondents from 159 countries and discovered that ‘most character strengths are positively linked to health-related outcomes, health behaviours, purpose, and lead to lower disease risk’.
So, what are the traits we should all aspire to embody?
Zest, self-regulation, hope, and gratitude were among the most favourable.
By examining links between 24 character strengths and five pillars of health, including healthy diet, exercising/sport activity, sleep, socialising, and self-care, the authors found that ‘curiosity, forgiveness, gratitude, honesty, hope, love, perseverance, prudence, self-regulation, and zest’ were favourably associated with healthier outcomes, such as a better and more fulfilled quality of life.
Being the class clown apparently brings mixed life outcomes.
Though humour was associated with having a decreased risk of feeling sad, blue, and depressed, the authors also note that it increases the ‘probability of insufficient rest or sleep and teamwork’.
Author Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska told PsyPost: ‘Our findings suggested that maintaining a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle coincides with energy and enthusiasm for life and health (zest), an attitude of discipline and resistance to temptations (self-regulation), feeling and expressing a sense of thankfulness in life and to others (gratitude), and optimistic thinking and confidence that goals can be reached (hope).
‘These might be viewed as primary character strengths for health outcomes and behaviours.’
Zest is best
Out of the many character traits, zest emerged most often when looking at positive health outcomes. The researchers note that zest refers to ‘vitality, vigour, and being energised and eager to engage in work and life.’
They found that zest could be linked to a reduced risk of depression, cardiorespiratory fitness, strength building, and active living, while vigour (a quality of zest) has been linked with a decreased risk of mortality and developing diabetes.
Hope was also shown to be one of the strongest character strengths connected with wellbeing and positive health outcomes.
Surprisingly, when it came to an appreciation of beauty, bravery, creativity, fairness, judgement, kindness, love of learning, leadership, social intelligence, and spirituality, more unfavourable health outcomes were found.
The authors explain that an appreciation of beauty tends to be externally focused, so those with this strength may not address internal issues such as their physical and mental health.
They also note that judgement involves critical thinking, and overuse of this can cause people to be narrow-minded and self-absorbed as well as critical towards oneself and others.
While we may think kindness is a great trait to have, the researchers warn that overusing it could make us feel drained and compassion-fatigued.
It may be well-intentioned, but kindness tends to focus on other people and has the danger of limiting self-compassion, self-care and other personal health factors.
We aren’t saying you should be selfish and only think about yourself, but if you want to live a healthier life, it’s clear that having a zest for life, some discipline and a little bit of hope and gratitude will go a long way.
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