Keeping your secrets, especially your happy news, is healthy and it’s for your own good, a new study has revealed.
Research has found that keeping secrets, especially about positive news, can make you feel more energised, alert, and alive.
The study by the American Psychological Association, led by Columbia University’s Associate Professor Michael Slepian, PhD, challenges the long-standing belief that secrecy is inherently harmful to our well-being.
“Decades of research on secrecy suggests it is bad for our well-being, but this work has only examined keeping secrets that have negative implications for our lives. Is secrecy inherently bad for our well-being, or do the negative effects of secrecy tend to stem from keeping negative secrets?” asks lead author Michael Slepian, PhD, an associate professor of business at Columbia University, in a media release.
“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,” he adds.
The study’s initial survey of 500 individuals found that while 76 per cent of people would immediately share good news, some choose to keep positive events, like marriage proposals or personal achievements, secret.
To find out why, researchers conducted five experiments with over 2,500 participants. These experiments explored the motivations behind keeping positive secrets and the effects of such secrecy on individuals.
One key experiment involved participants reflecting on good news they kept secret versus good news they shared with others. Those who marinated over their positive secrets longer felt more energised than those who shared their good news. This was true regardless of whether they intended to share the news later.
Further, Slepian’s team discovered the decision to keep a positive secret is often driven by internal desires rather than external pressures, contrasting with the reasons behind keeping negative or embarrassing secrets. This internal motivation, according to Slepian, contributes to the feeling of readiness and energy.
The researcher revealed that not all secrets are burdensome, and some, when kept for personal reasons or for the thrill of a surprise, can be empowering, uplifting and a source of joy and vitality.
“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 concludes.
“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.”
Also, a clinical psychologist, Kirren Schnack, found that people who overshare tend to struggle with boundaries, which can, in turn, lead to anxiety. Remember to give yourself time to sit with your good tidings the next time you feel a burning urge to rightfully boast about your achievements.
Feel the warming glow that comes from knowing that you have accomplished something good without diluting it with public opinion and inviting external pressure. The study is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.