Tag Archives: cortisol

Need a Quick Stress Reducer? Plant a Juicy Kiss on Your Mate.

We have already learned that touching is a great bond-inducer and stress-reliever. This is true for basketball players as it is for spouses. Research now says a specific kind of touching—kissing—is even more effective at reducing stress than other kinds of touching. That’s great news for kissing fans.

Kissing unleashes chemicals that ease stress hormones in both sexes. It also increasing bonding, at least in men. Wendy Hill, professor of neuroscience at Lafayette College, says the chemicals in saliva may be a tool for assessing mates.

For her research, Hill paired heterosexual college students who kissed for 15 minutes while listening to music. These students experienced significant changes in oxytocin levels (which affects bonding) and cortisone levels (associated with stress). Men and women had declined cortisol. Oxytocin levels increased for men, but decreased for women.

In the test group that merely held hands, chemical changes were “similar, but much less pronounced,” said Hill.

Hill presented her findings at a session on the Science of Kissing. Isn’t it interesting that such a conference exists? Her co-presenter, Helen Fisher of Rutgers University says 90 percent of human societies practice kissing. It’s three purposes are said to be for sex drive, romantic love, and attachment.

Fisher adds that men tend to think of kissing as a prelude to sex, and that they prefer “sloppy kisses” in which chemicals, including testosterone can be passed to the woman in saliva. (Testosterone increases sex drive in both men and women.)

If you find your marriage and family life is getting a little too stressful some days, make time for kissing. And not just as a prelude to sex. Talk about what kind of kissing you prefer, and when you like it best. Some marriage experts suggest lengthening your hello and goodbye kisses to at least 30 seconds. Taking this research into consideration, it may lead to a less stressful day or evening for you both.

Read Do You Kiss Like You Mean It? for common kissing mistakes.

 How many times a day do you think you and your spouse kiss? Consider increasing this number.

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The No-Talking Way to a Better Marriage

If you aim to make your husband fidgety, stressed and uncomfortable, simply utter the words, “Honey, we need to talk.”

While talking about feelings can be soothing to women, for many men, it has the opposite effect, according to psychotherapists Patricia Love and Steven Stosney, co-authors of How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. Stosney’s research, which includes studying hundreds of human and animal responses, shows males and females respond differently to stress from birth. For instance, baby girls need to make eye contact if they hear a loud noise, while boys need to withdraw to prevent overstimulation. As they get older, girls and women use talking to cope with stress, while boys and men pull away to cope.

The authors explain men tend to feel shame if they feel they don’t measure up. So, a woman initiating a conversation about relationship problems can cause these feelings of shame to well up. Other likely results: glazed eyes, defensiveness, or withdrawal (to TV, man cave, sports, etc.).

Why? Love explains when a man feels shamed by his sweetie’s criticsm, the stress hormone cortisol floods his body. A woman might feel a similar stress hormone rush if her husband yells at her.

So are there better strategies to address relationship issues? Thankfully, yes. Stay tuned for the next post, which will give you the four new tools to keep you both calm and cool, and perhaps more likely to please one another.

Let’s hear from you. If you’re a man, do you agree with this assessment that talking about your feelings is about as pleasant as eating sand? If you’re a woman, do you find relationship discussions put your partner on edge, or are they successful?

Your Emotional Health Affects Your Heart Health

Since heart disease is the #1 killer of both men and women in this country, you should be very concerned about the health of your heart and your partner’s heart. Barbara Bush is recovering from heart surgery today, and Robin Williams is about to have the same surgery. Former President George Bush nearly broke down providing an update, showing his deep care and concern for wife of 65 years. Most families have some history with the disease.

In a just-released research report, researchers from the University of Utah show that in addition to known risk factors, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, the quality of emotional lives impacts our risk of heart disease.

One fact suggested by the data is that a history of divorce is linked to heart disease. Another is that an unhappy or strained marriage can lead to high blood pressure, obesity and high blood sugar, particularly in women. This can put them at higher risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Hormonal affects of stress appear to contribute to health problems.

The researchers say that “women appear to be more sensitive and responsive to relationship problems than men” … and that “those problems could harm their health.” The fact that women are more sensitive shouldn’t come as a surprise to us, but I do wonder if more sensitive men are equally affected. In any case, here are some conclusions we should have known all along:

News flash to all husbands: Your wives are sensitive and should be treated with care.
News flash to all couples: harboring anger and frequently arguing is bad for your health.

A study released last year seems to show the flip side of this, that daily cortisol patterns (an indicator of stress) are linked to marital satisfaction for women but not men,” said co-author Rena Repetti, a UCLA professor in the department of psychology.

Men showed their cortisol levels drop dramatically after a busy day. Happily married women saw this benefit, but unhappily married women did not.

“Past research has found that men appear to get a health and longevity boost from marriage, while for women, being married is only beneficial insofar as the marriage is high-quality,” Repetti said. “This study is the first to point to daily cortisol fluctuations as a specific pathway through which marital quality affects health for women but not men.”

Repetti explains, “It may be that a chronically unhappy marriage creates multiple occasions everyday when the wife needs to mount a stress response, putting her cortisol levels on a kind of roller coaster ride. The system is under more wear and tear. It’s like driving a car in traffic conditions that are constantly stop and go. You need to repeatedly step on the gas and apply the brakes, step on the gas, apply the breaks. Over time, you create a less reliable system. You don’t stop and re-accelerate as quickly. You don’t recover as quickly.”

My thought is that women frequently care for those around them and don’t prioritize their own needs. Don’t let a heart attack be the first sign that you need to take better care of yourself and your emotional health. If you feel you have an unhappy marriage, please seek out a good marriage counselor.

What do you think about this connection between emotional health and heart health? You’ve heard of people who died of a broken heart—is your emotional heart closely connected with your heart health? What do you need to do to improve your emotional health and reduce stress levels?

Sources: News reports at CBC News, MSNBC.com and Scientific Blogging.