We all live with some amount of stress in our lives, and in so many cases it’s hard to eliminate, especially when the most common stressors for Americans include money, work, political climate, violence, crime, and relationships—BIG things. While the list goes on, we have some excellent news: Thinking about the person closest to you may be what you need to help decrease stress.
A new study led by psychologists from the University of Arizona and published in the journal Psychophysiology found that just thinking about your partner was as effective in lowering blood pressure as being in the physical presence of your partner. We can’t always be with our partners when we need them the most, so if just the thought of them can help relieve some in-the-moment tension, we’re excited.
Participants in the study were all in committed relationships and were asked to dip their feet into 3 inches of cold water. Some of them had their partner sitting in the room with them while others were asked to think about their partner or to think about their day. The people who had their partner in the same space or thought of them had a lower blood pressure response as compared to those who just thought about their day.
While this study points out that past research has linked both thinking about and being with your partner with reduced stress, “it appears that thinking of your partner as a source of support can be just as powerful as actually having them present,” lead author of the study, psychology doctoral student Kyle Bourassa said in a statement.
This discovery supports the large body of research that suggests healthy relationships are essential to our physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and social health. If you’re looking to add this stress-relieving tactic to your toolbox, here’s how to get started:
Often when we’re extremely stressed our minds race so quickly that we don’t even know what we are experiencing. A breathing exercise will help you slow down your thoughts and movements and allow you to acknowledge that you are in a stressful moment. Begin taking some deep breaths making your exhales twice as long as your inhales and feel your tension melt away.
If you can’t be with your partner physically, this is a perfect opportunity to practice visualizing them. Close your eyes and imagine your partner in your favorite place—perhaps they’re alone, or you’re with them. Don’t worry about seeing the right thing. Continue slow breathing and let your mind go as you think about your partner.
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