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A Simple Way for Couples to Reduce Stress and Stay Healthy

      According to a recent study conducted by researchers from Brigham Young University in Utah, non-sexual affection between couples lowers stress and enhances health. The results were published in the December 2008 issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

      For the study, researchers recruited 34 healthy, married couples between the ages of 20 and 39 years old. The couples had been married for at least six months.

      Each couple was randomly assigned to either a “couple contact enhancement” group or a "monitoring only" control group for a period of four weeks.

      The contact enhancement group was taught a massage method called “listening touch”. This is a form of neck, shoulder and head massage which aims to help increase awareness of your partner’s mood and stress levels. The couples performed the technique on each other for 30 minutes, three times a week.

      The researchers measured the participant’s blood pressure, oxytocin and alpha amylase levels before, during, and after the intervention.

      Oxytocin (often referred to as the “love hormone”) is naturally released in our bodies when we form emotional or physical connections with others. Alpha amylase is an indicator for stress.

      The participants in the warm touch group showed higher levels of oxytocin than the control group in the first week of the study. They maintained higher levels throughout the four week study period.

      Additionally, levels of alpha amylase were notably lower in the warm touch group by the end of the study and blood pressure dropped significantly among male participants in the group.

      We all know how important emotional support is for mental and physical health, but this study provides some empirical evidence to back up that common knowledge.

      Stress can have extremely detrimental effects on your health. In fact, some estimates show that around 75% of doctor visits are stress related.

      Practicing techniques like the “listening touch” appear to be effective, inexpensive and enjoyable ways to reduce stress levels. As an added bonus, becoming more in tune with your partners general mood and stress levels may serve to strengthen your connection.
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