From deep breaths to throwing around anything that isn’t nailed down – there are plenty of different methods for de-stressing. But new research out of the University of Michigan has found a new way to unwind and it works in mere seconds.
The study – published in the journal Scientific Reports – consisted of two neuroscientific experiments that showed how referring to yourself in the third person can help you control your emotions.
In the first test, participants were tasked with looking at “emotional aversive” images, they had to ask themselves both "What am I feeling right now?" and "What is [participant's name] feeling right now?".
The participants' brain activity was measured using an electroencephalograph, which found that the latter question reduced activity across the neural mechanisms known to help emotional regulation. And it did so in just one second.
The second experiment measured the brain activity of participants using an MRI machine while they shared an emotionally distressing experience, both in first and third-person. When speaking in third-person, the participants showed decreased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain associated with self-referential emotional processing.
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"What's really exciting here, is that the brain data from these two complementary experiments suggest that third-person self-talk may constitute a relatively effortless form of emotion regulation,” says the leader of the second study, Ethan Kross.
"If this ends up being true - we won't know until more research is done - there are lots of important implications these findings have for our basic understanding of how self-control works, and for how to help people control their emotions in daily life.”