If you turn on the TV and flip through the channels, scroll through your social media feed, or simply observe the human race in your everyday life, you may have noticed our propensity to argue. This talking head is yelling at that talking head; your aunt has picked a political fight with your friend over on Facebook; there’s a lovers’ spat going on in the corner of the park; one person accidentally bumps another person in a bar, and all hell breaks loose.
Conflict is baked in us, a product of our fight-or-flight animal selves.
Well, guess what? Fighting produces cortisol, the stress hormone, which has been linked in the past to memory problems and low performance on cognitive tasks. Those who choose not to engage in a fight, thus reducing that one stressor from their day, may not produce as much cortisol that could potentially affect their cognition. So next time someone picks a fight, it’s literally better for your health to turn the other cheek.
Now, what should you do if this fighting occurs in your marriage? This is a hard but important question. While numerous studies have shown the benefits of a good marriage on levels of stress and well-being, a bad marriage is detrimental to both. Not engaging the next time your spouse picks a fight, is one answer. Another is a good couples therapist. But if conflict simply cannot be removed from the marriage, and you’re worried about brain health, you may want to remove yourself from it.