Keeping Secrets (Good Ones)

  • December 31, 2023
  • General

Keeping Secrets (Good Ones)

John M Oldham MD


We all know about keeping secrets, but usually they are things we don’t want anybody to know.  Things we’re embarrassed about or ashamed of.  Sometimes they can be really big deals, such as losing a lot of money when an investment tanks and you knew it was, at best, a long shot.  Or minor stuff, like the dent in your back fender when you stupidly didn’t pay attention in the parking lot.  Or sometimes just unknown, like when you can’t remember what happened that night after you had way too much to drink.

But what about good secrets—things we’re happy about and proud of.  Some people rush to tell the news, rightly so, such as a wished-for positive pregnancy test.  Or getting a promotion.  Or winning the half-marathon.  But sometimes it feels right to keep it to ourselves for a bit, to savor it and to imagine spreading the good news before actually doing it.  In a recent New York Times article called “The Quiet Thrill of Keeping a Secret” (, Catherine Pearson cites new research that suggests that keeping good news to yourself for a time can be energizing and uplifting.  The study by Michael Slepian and colleagues (Slepian ML et al, The Bright Side of Secrecy, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2023;125:1018-1035) examines the benefits of keeping positive news (such as getting the top grade on an exam, or learning about an unexpected inheritance) to yourself—at least for a while.  Just carrying the news around with you can be a joyful resource, to balance a bad day at work or to help you tolerate a dreaded chore you have to do.

At this time of the year, with the New Year around the corner, we speak of New Year’s Resolutions.  A good one might be to keep a few happy secrets all to yourself long enough to enjoy them.  And then to plan to whom to tell the news, and when to do so.