The Secret to a Longer, Healthier Life Could Be Resolving Arguments Before You Go to Bed, a New Study Suggests

Doing so can reduce stress, which actually lowers your risk of physical conditions like inflammation.

upset couple laying back to back in bed
Photo: Layla Bird / Getty Images

Stress, especially from arguing, inevitably takes a toll on the mind, but according to a new study published in The Journals of Gerontology by Oregon State University researchers, taking the steps to resolve any issues before the end of a day can significantly improve your overall health. In fact, lessening chronic stress can lower the risk of physical problems down the road, like heart disease and a weak immune system. "Everyone experiences stress in their daily lives. You aren't going to stop stressful things from happening. But the extent to which you can tie them off, bring them to an end and resolve them is definitely going to pay dividends in terms of your well-being," said Robert Stawski, a senior author on the study and an associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. "Resolving your arguments is quite important for maintaining well-being in daily life."

Essentially, researchers emphasize that you should "choose your battles" wisely each day. "Daily stressors—specifically the minor, small inconveniences that we have throughout the day—even those have lasting impacts on mortality and things like inflammation and cognitive function," said Dakota Witzel, a lead author and a doctoral student in human development and family studies at OSU. To uncover these lasting impacts, Stawski and Witzel studied data from over 2,000 participants in the National Study of Daily Experiences. This survey outlined how each volunteer felt and what they experienced during an eight-day period.

After looking at the arguments the participants had and the arguments they avoided altogether, they noted how the situation affected them emotionally that day and the day after. The team explained that negative emotions during the same day is called "reactivity," and "residue" is the extended feeling that happens after the experience takes place. They found that on the day of an argument or avoided argument, those who resolved the situation reported half the amount reactivity to those who didn't come to a resolution. Plus, people who came to a common ground didn't feel any residue the next day.

Age could also play a role in how people generally come to a place of peace in their day-to-day lives. While negative and positive impacts of resolutions were the same across the board, the study found that adults over the age of 68 had a 40 percent higher chance than those under 45 years of age to resolve their issues. "If older adults are really motivated to maximize their emotional well-being, they're going do a better job, or at least a faster job, at resolving stressors in a more timely fashion," Stawski said. In general, the researchers recommend working on emotional responses to stressors (particularly when it comes to self-control) whenever possible. "Some people are more reactive than other people," Stawski added. "But the extent to which you can tie off the stress so it's not having this gnawing impact at you over the course of the day or a few days will help minimize the potential long-term impact."

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