Are you feeling tired and stressed? Close your eyes and think about your romantic partner for a moment. Feeling better? A new study published in Psychophysiology suggests stopping to think about your partner creates “good stress” and gives you an energy boost.
Previous studies have shown that positive feelings can protect individuals against physical and mental illnesses. One study recently suggested that people practicing rehabilitation exercises – say, to recover from a stroke – show even greater improvement when practicing with a romantic partner.
For this latest study, the research team – led by graduate psychology student Sarah Stanton from Western University in Ontario, Canada – analyzed blood glucose levels in 183 participants before and after they thought about their current romantic partner.
As the participants thought about their partners, the team observed a rise in glucose and an increase in positive mood for a short duration.
However, when the participants thought about a friend of the opposite sex or their morning routine, the team observed a slight decline in blood glucose levels and no positive effects.
The researchers say their findings are linked to “eustress,” which is “good,” euphoric stress that is in direct contrast to bad distress. They believe their results will help psychologists better understand relationships and relationship processes as a whole.
“Essentially, love gives you a ‘rush’ both physically and psychologically,” notes Stanton. “The ‘stress’ of love is linked with positive emotions, not negative emotions of any kind.”
Researchers have previously found that thinking about a romantic partner generates an increase in cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone released in response to stress, but Stanton and her team say that by demonstrating the connection between glucose increase and positive mood, their study is the first to show concrete evidence that eustress results from reflecting on one’s partner.
But these benefits are not only for new lovers; through their study, Stanton and colleagues showed that romantic couples experience eustress even after they have been together for a long period of time. They say this is in contrast to other studies that have suggested eustress mainly occurs during the first 6 months of a relationship.
In other couples news, in 2013, Medical News Today reported on a study that showed men tend to slow down when walking to match their female romantic partner’s speed. Researchers from that study said their findings could have further implications for mobility or reproductive strategies of groups, including helping scientists interpret fossil footprint trails or hunter gatherer strategies.
Another study from 2013 suggested we do not have to be in our partner’s presence to be able to discern how they are feeling.