Now there’s even more incentive to commit yourself to a significant other this cuffing season, thanks to recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: stress-relief.
According to the new study, the simple—if not potentially a tiny bit creepy—act of sniffing your partner’s shirt can have major mental health benefits when it comes to relieving stress. Which is basically the best excuse we’ve ever heard to steal your boyfriend’s shirt.
To conduct the trial, a group of 96 women were asked to sniff one of three different shirts. The first was unworn, the second worn by their partner, and a third shirt had been worn by a stranger. Next, they were given a “stress test” and their response was measured by testing cortisol levels five times through the study.
Interestingly, stress was reduced in women who were exposed to their partner’s scent, while cortisol levels were raised in women asked to smell the stranger’s shirt. While we’ve long known that the scent of another person can activate memories, trigger emotions, and spark romantic attraction, this is really the first such insight into how it can impact stress.
The take-home message? Slipping into your partner’s shirt after a manic day could help relax you. “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,” lead study author Marlise Hofer, a graduate student in the University of British Columbia’s department of psychology, explained in a press release, adding: “Our findings suggest that a partner’s scent alone, even without their physical presence, can be a powerful tool to help reduce stress.”
According to Hofer, it’s also not surprising that women exposed to a stranger’s scent were even more stressed out, as humans are conditioned to have a sense of stranger danger, even unknowingly, with something as seemingly harmless as an unfamiliar scent.
No partner? No worries. There are plenty of other scientifically-backed ways to bust stress. Like meditation, aromatherapy, and yoga. Some research even suggests simply taking off your shoes and going barefoot could boost your zen.