What do you generally do when you're stressed? Maybe have a warm cup of coffee, hoping that it would give you a relief? Science says all you need to do is sniff your romantic partner's shirt.
Yes, all those "sniffing sweater" scenes you have seen in romantic movies actually work. In fact, a recent study published this week in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has found that anxious women had lower stress levels when they smelled shirt their partners had worn.
"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 realise why they engage in these behaviours," said Marlise Hofer, the study's lead author.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia studied 96 straight couples. For the study, men were given a clean T-shirt to wear for 24 hours and were asked not to use deodorant and scented body products. They were even told not to smoke or eat certain foods that could affect their scent. The T-shirts were then frozen to preserve the scent.
Women participating in the study were asked to act as the "smellers" because according to the researchers they tend to have a better sense of smell than men.
They were then randomly assigned to smell a T-shirt that was either unworn or had been worn by their partner or by a stranger, without being informed which one they were given.
After this, they underwent a stress test involving a mock job interview, a mental math task, and answering questions about their stress levels. They also provided saliva samples, which were used to measure their cortisol levels.
The researchers found that women who had smelled their partner's shirt and identified the scent correctly felt less stressed both before and after the stress test.
The only problem was the women weren't that good at guessing the scents of their significant others. Only two-thirds knew that the scent was familiar, while a third thought it was some stranger's shirt.
On the other hand, women who had smelled a stranger's scent they had higher cortisol levels throughout the stress test.
Hofer said: "From a young age, humans fear strangers, especially strange males, so it is possible that a strange male scent triggers the 'fight or flight' response that leads to elevated cortisol."
It makes more sense as a recent study revealed odours can bring back memories.
Frances Chen, the study's senior author and assistant professor in the UBC department of psychology, said the finding of this study could help people cope with stressful situations when they're far away from their loved ones.
"With globalisation, people are increasingly travelling for work and moving to new cities. Our research suggests that something as simple as taking an article of clothing that was worn by your loved one could help lower stress levels when you're far from home," said Chen.