Picturing someone you love when you’re stressed can minimize your body’s response to the situation, new research suggests.
Each participant in the study submerged one foot in near-freezing water to trigger a stress response while either thinking about their day, imagining their significant other, or sitting with that person. Compared to those who thought about their day, people who pictured or sat with their loved one had a lower blood pressure response to the cold.
Stress typically causes a spike in blood pressure, especially if you’re dealing with it by yourself. Having a support system with you makes those situations less threatening, says study author Kyle Bourassa, a doctoral student in the department of psychology at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Even if you’re physically alone during those times, imagining your romantic partner, best friend, or another positive person in your life can keep you physiologically and emotionally calm.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When deadlines, traffic, or other stressors get to you, Bourassa says it’s most beneficial to envision a loved one actively supporting you. For example, think back to the last time that person cheered you on at a race or imagine him or her holding your hand for comfort.
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