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Why Keeping A Secret Can Be Good For You

A Columbia University study explored the benefits of keeping secrets. 

Keeping secrets can be a good thing, according to new research.

Three-quarters of people (76 percent) said they would immediately share good news but the study suggests that keeping it a secret might brighten your day.

The research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, involved more than 2,500 participants in five experiments.

Lead author Professor Michael Slepian from Columbia University said: “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.

The research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, involved more than 2,500 participants in five experiments. PHOTO BY FELICITY TAI/PEXELS 

“Is secrecy inherently bad for our well-being or do the negative effects of secrecy tend to stem from keeping negative secrets?

“While negative secrets are far more common than positive secrets, some of life’s most joyful occasions begin as secrets, including secret marriage proposals, pregnancies, surprise gifts and exciting news.”

People who reported that they intended to share their news with others also reported feeling more energized, whether the news was secret or not.

Participants were most energized when they were keeping their good news secret in order to surprise their partner later.

The research found that the reason positive secrets are so much better for you than negative secrets is that people keep positive secrets for internal or personal reasons, rather than because they feel forced by outside pressures to keep the information secret.

This contrasts with negative or embarrassing secrets which are often governed by external pressures or fears.

Professor Slepian said: “Positive secrets that people choose to keep should make them feel good, and positive emotion is a known predictor of feeling energized.

“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.

“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.”

They also found that keeping good news a secret can make people feel energized and alive, regardless of whether they intend to share it with someone or not.

In fact, the longer good news is kept a secret the better, Professor Slepian noted.

“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.

“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.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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