The results are in: keeping good news a secret may literally be good for you, scientists have found.
As the American Psychological Association writes, new research suggests that despite the popular conception that secret-keeping is bad for one's psychiatric health, drawing out the period when you keep good news private appears to help feel "more energized and alive."
"Decades of research on secrecy suggest it is bad for our well-being, but this work has only examined keeping secrets that have negative implications for our lives," Dr. Michael Slepian, the study's lead author and an associate professor of business at Columbia said in the APA press release. "Is secrecy inherently bad for our well-being or do the negative effects of secrecy tend to stem from keeping negative secrets?"
The researchers behind the new paper, which was published in the APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, have not yet completed their study and analysis of the net benefits of secret-keeping — but what they have found thus far sounds pretty compelling.
One group of participants in the survey were asked to conduct a fairly simple thought experiment: imagine finding out some good news, such as a desired pregnancy or job promotion, and then imagine not being able to immediately tell your partner about the news and instead having to keep it a secret until you're both back at home at the end of the workday — either to surprise them, or because they were unable to reach the partner for whatever reason.
While most participants who kept their good news secret for a period of time reported feelings of being energized and "enlivened," those who chose to keep a secret intentionally as a surprise reported feeling the most excited by the prospect.
"People sometimes go to great lengths to orchestrate revealing a positive secret to make it all the more exciting. This kind of surprise can be intensely enjoyable, but surprise is the most fleeting of our emotions," Slepian said. "Having extra time — days, weeks or even longer — to imagine the joyful surprise on another person’s face allows us more time with this exciting moment, even if only in our own minds."
Interestingly, the researchers also have a hypothesis about why positive secret-keeping feels so much better than the negative kind, too.
"People will often keep positive secrets for their own enjoyment, or to make a surprise more exciting. Rather than based in external pressures, positive secrets are more often chosen due to personal desires and internal motives," the Columbia Business School researcher continued. "When we feel that our actions arise from our own desires rather than external pressures, we also feel ready to take on whatever lies ahead."
Next time you get some good news, try keeping it to yourself for a few hours or days to see how good it feels. According to this research, it may just surprise you.
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