People encounter stressful moments in their lives. Work, interviews, commuting and the school run are just some of the aspects many of us must face. Although these situations can bring about negative feelings of stress, there may be a simple solution. If you have a partner, their scent could reduce your stress levels.
According to new research, the smell of a romantic partner can help to relieve stress. This is particularly apparent when couples are separated or away from home. During these times, people may wear their partner’s clothing, sleep in their partner’s clothing or sleep on their side of the bed. The reminder of a romantic partner’s presence creates a sense of comfort, but people might not fully realise why.
A study was conducted at the University of British Colombia with 96 heterosexual couples. The men were told to wear a clean t-shirt for 24 hours. They weren’t allowed to inhibit their natural smell with aftershave, deodorants, cigarette smoke or even certain foods.
Once the 24 hours was completed, the t-shirts were frozen to keep the scent. The women of the study were then invited to a blind smell test where they were assigned to random t-shirts. They were then put into stressful situations like mock job interviews and mathematics tests. Following this, the women answered questions about their stress levels and saliva samples were taken to measure cortisol levels (a stress hormone).
Our Bodies Have Always Responded to Scent
The results of the study showed that the women’s stress levels were reduced when they detected their partner’s scent. In contrast to this, when they detected the smell of a stranger stress levels were increased.
Overall, the study demonstrates what our bodies are already built to do – detecting a scent that is unfamiliar triggers a fight or flight response. It is a biological warning that we are in danger and has always been present in humans. Encountering familiar scents will bring positive feelings that benefit stress levels because of our positive association.