Being in a healthy, romantic relationship can be beneficial in more ways than one. A recent study, titled ‘The impact of physical proximity and attachment working models on cardiovascular reactivity: Comparing mental activation and romantic partner presence’, published in the journal Psychophysiology suggests that simply imagining the love and support from your significant other can boost your stress management skills.
According to a report in the Medical News, “A team of psychologists from the University of Arizona in Tucson has conducted a study that suggests that being in the presence of your partner can help you cope with stress and that, more intriguing still, even just thinking about your significant other can have the same positive effects”.
For the purpose of the study, a sample of undergraduate students in a romantic relationship at a large university was randomly assigned to one of three conditions: partner present, mental activation, or control. The participants were 19 years old on average and predominantly female (75.5%), with an average relationship length of 20.6 months. The sample was generally diverse, with 46.0% people who were Caucasian and non‐Hispanic.
The 102 people who participated in the study were assigned a stress-inducing task that required each volunteer to dip one foot into 3-inch-deep water with temperatures between 38–40°F (approximately 3.3–4.4°C). To establish the amount of stress that each participant felt, the researchers assessed their blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rate variability before, during, and at the end of the experiment. The researchers split the volunteers into three groups – the people in the first group had their romantic partners sitting quietly with them while they completed the stressful task, the people in the second group received the instruction to simply imagine receiving support from their partners while completing the task and the third group had to think about the events of their day while taking part in the experiment.
Measuring the parameters, the researchers found that the first two groups – those who either had their partner close by or imagined their partner’s love and support had a lower blood pressure (that indicates less stress) compared to the participants who thought about their day while taking part in this task.
“This [finding] suggests that one way being in a romantic relationship might support people’s health is through allowing people to better cope with stress and lower levels of cardiovascular reactivity to stress across the day,” says senior study author Kyle Bourassa as per Medical News.” And it appears that thinking of your partner as a source of support can be just as powerful as actually having them present,” he adds.