Plus, 3 more proven — and inexpensive — ways to cut stress
Smelling good is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
That’s per a new study from the University of British Columbia recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Psychology researchers at the Canadian institution discovered that women demonstrated lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, after smelling a t-shirt that had been worn by their opposite sex partner.
“Many people wear their partner’s shirt or sleep on their partner’s side of the bed when their partner is away, but may not realize why they engage in these behaviors,” said Marlise Hofer, the lead author of the study, which involved 96 couples.
Women were chosen as the subjects because they are believed to have a stronger sense of smell. They weren’t told if the shirt they were smelling was their partner’s prior to having a stress test administered. That said, women who correctly identified their partner’s scent prior to taking the test were more relaxed.
Conversely, sniffing a tee that had previously clothed a stranger increased the subject’s stress level. “From a young age, humans fear strangers, especially strange males, so it is possible that a strange male scent triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response that leads to elevated cortisol,” Hofer says.
The results are a “no-brainer for me,” says Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills celebrity psychotherapist, who isn’t affiliated with the study. “It’s similar to the relationship a baby has with a beloved stuffed toy or pacifier. When under duress, it becomes a transitional object and source of comfort and soothing.” The author of “The Self-Aware Parent” herself keeps an unwashed shirt from an ex-partner in her closet that she likes to hold when under pressure.
Happily for single people and those who don’t want to cart around their partner’s garb in day-to-day life, there are less quirky ways of stress reduction. Here are three:
1. Get sufficient rest, which means at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Walfish recommends going to bed and waking up at the same time daily, so your body rhythm eases into a routine. “After dinner, dim the lights, turn on calming music, and take a soothing warm bath,” she says. And avoid using a cellphone or computer, since those “activities tend to rev up anxiety and excitatory threshold rather than relaxing and calming you down.”
2. Eat right. Among the foods that may help lower your cortisol levels are bananas and pumpkin seeds, both of which are ripe in magnesium, a substance that Walfish says helps relax muscles and relief aches. She also suggests picking out food that has high levels of tryptophan, which she compares to serotonin, the mood-regulating hormone. It “occurs naturally in certain foods, such as fish, whole grains, almonds and eggs, so you can use them in your evening meal to help you sleep,” she says.
3. Check in regularly with friends or partners. You should email and text them during the day, even if it’s just to send something as simple as a heart-shaped emoji. For others, staying in touch with a supportive friend can be almost as effective. “Find someone there with you for continuity,” Walfish says. “Someone who doesn’t judge you and accepts your flaws and all.”
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