Relieve stress by sharing a meal with family or friends, study finds
Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. But how can we tackle the unpleasant emotion?
In the UK, one in 14 adults feel stressed every single day – with the most common cause being work related stress.
Besides the racing thoughts and anxiety that accompanies stress, it can often manifest into physical symptoms such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes – and it also increases the risk of a stroke.
Researchers from the American Heart Association have found that 91 percent of parents report their families as less stressed when they share meals together.
The poll of 1,000 American adults revealed that 84 percent wish they could eat with a loved one, but the average adult eats alone roughly half the time.
The research, conducted for the AHA’s Healthy for Good movement by Wakefield Research, also found that two in three are at least somewhat stressed and 27 percent are very or extremely stressed.
Erin Michos, American Heart Association volunteer and associate director of preventive cardiology at Johns Hopkins University, said: “Sharing meals with others is a great way to reduce stress, boost self-esteem and improve social connection, particularly for kids.
“Chronic, constant stress can also increase your lifetime risk of heart disease and stroke, so it is important for people to find ways to reduce and manage stress as much as possible, as soon as possible.”
Many of the respondents believe sharing a meal has additional health benefits, as 54 percent said sharing a meal reminds them to slow down and take a break.
Two in three said dining with others highlights the importance of connecting with friends, family, co-workers and neighbours.
Meanwhile, 59 percent revealed they make healthier food choices when they eat with other people, but many find it difficult to match their schedule with their loved one.
“We know it’s not always as easy as it sounds to get people together at mealtime. Like other healthy habits, give yourself permission to start small and build from there,” Michos explained.
“Set a goal to gather friends, family or coworkers for one more meal together each week. If you can’t get together in person, think about how you can share a meal together over the phone or a computer.”
The poll also found that seven in 10 full or part-time workers said they would feel less stressed if they have more time to take a break and share a meal with their co-workers.
According to the NHS, if stress is affecting your life then talk to a loved one about how you are feeling, or contact Samaritans by calling 116 123 or email [email protected] if you need someone to talk to.
Other methods include getting started with exercise, setting time for yourself, calm breathing exercises and time-management techniques.