Thoughts about loved ones can alleviate the physiological response to stress.
Those who are mentally with loved ones have less blood pressure in stressful situations. The effect of this mental connection is as strong as the presence of a partner.
Stress affects the body in various ways: mental stress leads to increased pressure, suppresses the immune system, and in the long run leads to overweight. For a long time, scientists have been looking for factors that can facilitate the physiological response to stress, reduce its negative impact on health.
Based on social studies, it became known that contact with a partner can significantly reduce stress. And even the usual presence of a loved one can weaken the stress response of the body. But will it work if you only think about your loved ones?
This is exactly what Kyle Bourassa of the University of Arizona and his colleagues investigated. For their study, they attracted 102 fellow students, whose average age is 19 years old, each of whom had a happy relationship. They were subjected to a stressful situation: the participant had to keep his feet in water with a temperature of 3-4 degrees Celsius.
But in this test, not all subjects received spiritual and moral support: only a third of them had a partner nearby. The second group could only think about a loved one, and the rest were forbidden – the experimental subjects from this control group had to think about what their day was like during the course of the task.
Which of the participants experienced less stress, lowering their feet in cold water? Scientists verified this by measuring heart rate and blood pressure before, during, and after the experiment. Result: those around whom the partner was sitting showed a significantly weaker stress response than the participants from the control group – this primarily concerned blood pressure. It was also surprising that the scientists noticed the same effect in the group whose members only thought about the partner – they reacted to the situation with significantly lower blood pressure. In this case, the action of thoughts was as strong as the physical presence of a loved one.
These results help explain why in romantic relationships people are often healthier than single people. “The way love relationships improve health is obviously a change in stress response. They help a person more easily deal with stressful Burassa says. “At the same time, thoughts about loved ones are as strong a source of support as the immediate presence of a partner.”
Subsequent studies should demonstrate how the effect found affects people of other age groups.