Chisme: Can it Boost Your Mental Health?

There's no doubt that chisme is frowned upon. But new findings may have you thinking twice the next time your girlfriends spill the beans.  Research suggests that gossiping can actually have physical and mental health benefits -- when done without bad intentions.

"Gossiping is a way of passing along social norms," says Dr. Ana Nogales, a clinical psychologist and founder of Nogales Psychological Counseling, Inc. in Los Angeles. "It’s a way of connecting and relieving anxiety."

Dr. Nogales is not alone in her thinking. According to a 2009 University of Michigan study, “gossiping” can make you feel emotionally close to a friend. It turns out that sharing a secret increases your levels of the hormone progesterone, which boosts your wellbeing and reduces stress and anxiety.

Some gossip can even act as a cautionary tale by repressing bad behaviors. “We control our behavior because we're afraid of what people will say," says Dr. Nogales. For instance, if you hear a story of someone who cheated on their spouse or was arrested for drinking while intoxicated, and the feedback from the group is negative, it can help you resist those same temptations.

Gossiping may also increase your imagination and perspective. Say there’s something that you want, like a new baby, gossiping can help you realize your dreams and inspire you to action.

There is a difference between negative and positive gossiping, or gossiping sin maldad, explains Dr. Nogales. When you "gossip" about someone getting a raise, or getting engaged, it actually makes you feel good, because you're passing on happy information. Just make sure your gossip has a positive spin, like telling a co-worker you heard bonuses would be back in effect this year. “Positivity is infectious,” she says. And that’s news worth sharing.

by Robyn Moreno