Let’s get one thing straight: Taking a whiff of your partner’s T-shirt—either because you miss them or you’re cuddling up together, watching Netflix—isn’t creepy. (At least I hope not, because otherwise, I’m giant creep every. single. day.) Well it turns out this form of deep breathing could actually be good for your health, so regardless of your stance on the shirt-sniff debate, you should probably do it on the reg.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the scent of someone you love can gift your mental health amazing benefits. After having 96 women smell one of three different shirts—one unworn, one worn by their partner, and another worn by a stranger—they underwent a stress test. The results found that those who sniffed their significant other’s shirt were less stressed both before and after the test, and the stress-busting benefits were even stronger when the participant recognized their partner’s scent.
“Our findings suggest that a partner’s scent alone, even without their physical presence, can be a powerful tool to help reduce stress.” —Marlise Hofer, lead study author
“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 realize why they engage in these behaviors,” said lead study author Marlise Hofer, a graduate student in the University of British Columbia’s department of psychology, in a press release. “Our findings suggest that a partner’s scent alone, even without their physical presence, can be a powerful tool to help reduce stress.”
Those who smelled a stranger’s shirt, on the other hand, had the highest cortisol levels, which can be elevated during times of stress or when anxiety is high. According to Hofer, this makes sense, as humans are conditioned to have a sense of stranger danger, even unknowingly, with something as seemingly innocuous as an unfamiliar scent.
So the next time your S.O. is away—or you just need to calm your nerves after a long day of work—give a shirt, (or, er, something else) a sniff. If something so simple could possibly change your day for the better, why not?