The 80s AT&T slogan “reach out and touch someone” is actually a wonderful health tip! Whenever stress, anxiety, or depression has you down in the dumps, it’s helpful to talk it out…or just to hear a friend’s voice. Pick up the phone for a 5-minute chat and an instant pick-me-up!
A Hug Is Just a Phone Call Away
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison discovered that a phone call can be just as effective as a hug in calming stress. Researchers assigned 61 girls, ages 7-12, the task of either making a speech or working through math problems in front of an audience, both high stress activities for adolescent girls. They then divided the girls into three groups. Group 1 got a hug and spent 15 minutes with mom, group 2 chatted with their mothers over the phone for 15 minutes, and group 3 watched a “neutral” movie for 75 minutes. After the girls in group 1 and 2 talked to their mothers, they watched 60 minutes of the same flick.
Using a swab, researchers checked the girls’ cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone that is activated during the stress response. The saliva samples showed that the girls who either got a hug from their moms in person or talked to their moms over the phone had significantly decreased cortisol levels, and that levels returned to normal within half an hour. The girls who had no personal contact but watched the movie showed higher cortisol levels after the test and throughout the experiment.
Researchers also measured levels of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, in the girls’ urine. Those who reached out and touched someone—either on the phone or in person—had higher concentrations of oxytocin than did the girls from group 3.
Talking It Out
Talk therapy doesn’t just apply to young girls and their mothers. It’s the foundation of psychotherapy….and a large component of human bonding! Sometimes we forget that help truly is a phone call away. Stress is a primary cause of virtually every illness, and keeping it in check is crucial to our physical and mental well-being. Taking just 5-minutes to pick up the phone and connect with someone can help stimulate some much needed oxytocin and chart you a positive course for the rest of your day.