A recent study found that just thinking about your partner could help lower your blood pressure during stressful situations.
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The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, thinking about your S.O. might help. A recent study published in Psychophysiology suggested that just thinking about your partner before getting stressed could lower your blood pressure just as well as being with them in IRL. Translation: You don’t need a physical shoulder to lean on-you just need to know you have your loved one’s support to get through tough times. (Related: Dating Coach Matthew Hussey Says Boxing Can Teach A Lot About Relationships)
Here’s how they came to that conclusion: More than 100 participants who were currently in a romantic relationship were divided into three groups: One that would spend time with their partner, one that would think about their partner, and one that would think about their day. After that, each group dipped their foot in cold water for four minutes to cause stress, and their blood pressure and heart rate were measured. Researchers found that both the group that spent time with their mates and the one that thought about them showed similar drops in blood pressure compared to the third group. That said, there might be a slight edge to spending time with your partner in the flesh. The group who had actual QT self-reported less pain from the cold water than those who merely thought about their boo. (Related: Need to Destress? Science Says Wash the Dishes)
Here’s exactly how the “thinking-only group” channeled their thoughts, so you can try it out the next time your life is a stress fest: This group was instructed to close their eyes for 30 seconds and visualize a detailed image of their partner or of them doing something together, with emphasis on making the mental picture as vivid as possible.
And if you’re as single as a dollar bill, no worries-this isn’t necessarily a perk reserved for couples. While this study looked at people who were in romantic relationships, there are likely lots of people in your life who make you feel supported and safe (hi, Mom!). And previous studies have illustrated the importance of non-romantic relationships in keeping stress levels in check. One study found that hearing your mom’s voice has stress-lowering benefits on par with seeing her in person. Research also suggests that feeling supported by loved ones of any kind might help reduce the effects of stress. So next time you’re having a shitty day, consider spending time with, calling, or even just thinking about that one time you did that one thing with your favorite human.