The Personality Trait That Makes You Healthy
This characteristic can alter your immune system and help fend off the flu
Good news, social butterfy: All those upcoming holiday parties on your iCal might be the secret to staying healthy throughout the season. Extroverts-people who are naturally more talkative, energetic, and assertive-are more likely to have strong immune systems, according to new research in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology. In contrast, researchers found that people who alternatively identified as conscientious or cautious had the weakest immune systems.
In the study, participants were given a blood test and a personality quiz to measure five different traits. Those with a more enthusiastic and outgoing personality had increased pro-inflammatory genes in white blood cells-which help fight off inflammatory diseases like celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and asthma. Conscientious individuals, on the other hand, saw higher inflammatory genes and more compromised immune systems. Researchers think that since extroverts are more social and therefore usually exposed to more people, their immune systems have become stronger to combat infections.
Being cautious isn't always a bad thing though, especially when it comes to your health (appearing rude is worth not shaking that guy's hand after he sneezed!). Plus, more introverted individuals can benefit from alone time in other ways, like becoming more self-sufficient, understanding themselves better, and being more creative. (Learn more about The Power of Alone Time: Books on the Benefits of Flying Solo.)
Other traits typically seen as negative can also have a healthy impact: Pessimists, for example, may live 10 years longer than those who always see the bright side, according to a 2013 German study. And being nervous on a big date (as introverts typically are) can actually produce adrenaline to give you energy and focus. (See 3 Negative Personality Traits That Have Positive Benefits.)
But are introverts stuck with being sick? Of course not: There are plenty of strategies for surviving cold and flu season unscathed and building up your immune system, like listening to music and sleeping in a pitch-black room (see 10 Easy Ways to Boost Your Immunity). Plus, if you're dreading the holiday party scene, you can still learn to survive the festivities-and perhaps reap the benefits of a boosted immune system-with these 7 Small-Talk Tips for Holiday Parties.