Feeling Sad? Thinking of Your Loved One May Help, Experts Say

By Rebecca Lewis on June 27, 2012

Do you love placing a photo of your children or partner on your desk? Does it make you feel better? When your mind comes across a painful memory, it can be helpful to think about your loved ones because according to a new study, doing this eases the pain and reduces negative thinking.  

Stress comes in two ways. One is generated by external forces like a breakup, the traffic jam on your way to work, or an argument with a friend, and so on. The second one refers to those that we ourselves create. These include our memories. According to Vivian Zayas, study co-author and assistant professor at Cornell University, our own memories can often be a major source of stress. For instance, thinking of the loss of a loved one few years back or a recent breakup can affect one’s mood and consequently stress them out.

However, thinking about someone close to you like your mum, friend, or partner either by recalling beautiful memories with them or just looking on their photographs can revive your mood and reduce the likelihood to engage in negative thinking.

The researchers arrived on this conclusion after conducting a series of experiments in which they asked the participants to recall negative memories and then think about their loved ones. For instance, during the first experiment, participants were asked to savour the memory when their mums had been supportive. In the second experiment, they viewed photographs of their mothers or romantic partners. On the other hand, the control group was asked to think about an interaction with an acquaintance and looked on photos of people they don’t know.

Those who taught about their loved ones recovered faster from the effects brought by thinking of painful memories. They were also found to be less likely to engage in negative thinking, as compared to the control group.

What’s more surprising was that participants who recalled positive interactions with their loved ones reported to have fewer physical or psychological health issues at least in one month following the study.

What does this study imply?

Their findings have implications to physical and mental health because according to the researchers, negative thinking is linked to health problems – whether physical or mental. Repeatedly recalling negative memories is a major factor that triggers the development of health problems such as anxiety disorder, depression, and cardiovascular disease.

This research was the first to explore the benefits of thinking about a loved one when experiencing stress that people generate on their own. In the past, studies focused on stress that’s caused by eternal factors.

Feeling Sad? Think about your loved ones

The researchers suggest doing this technique when people are in the verge of anxiety after thinking of a negative experience. This coping mechanism is less effortful, automatic and spontaneous strategy, said Emre Selcuk, study co-author and a candidate in the graduate field of human development. Selcuk also added that this particular technique is easy to incorporate in one’s life. For instance, you can bring a small photograph of your loved one as you travel or just store it in your cell phone so the moment you feel sad, you can simply pull it up.

 

Source of this article:

Painful memory? Think about a loved one, study says, Cornell University

 

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