Just Thinking About Having a Drink Can Help You Relax

Many people turn to the liquor cabinet during times of stress — like, say, when the stock marketis gyrating in triple-digit moves. But did you know that just thinking about having a drink can help you relax?

Wine glass
Wine glass

In a recent article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, scientists at Victoria University of Wellington, Harvard Medical School and Plymouth University explain that there is a “phenomenon of suggestion,” whereby the mere suggestion of something — a lucky rabbit’s foot, a glass of wine or a pill — can have an effect on the outcome of a situation. It’s similar to the “placebo effect,” whereby patients take a dummy pill but think it’s the real thing and actually start to feel the desired effect of the real drug.

These researchers call it “response expectancies.”

For example, a normally shy person who thinks a glass of wine or two will help him relax and be more sociable at a party is more likely to feel less inhibited, approach more people and engage in more conversations at that party. He may tell you it was the wine, but the researchers say “it is clear that his expectations of how the wine would make him feel played a major role.”

"If I bring my rabbit's foot to the midterm, I will do well; if I drink this vodka tonic, I will be more sociable; If I take this pill, I will fell less depressed — these are just a few examples of response expectancies,” the researchers wrote in the article.

“Once we anticipate a specific outcome will occur, our subsequent thoughts and behaviors will actually help bring that outcome to fruition,” the researchers said.

Now, lest you think this is all just an excuse to start drinking more – or thinking about drinking more – there’s a nugget in here for the bosses. The researchers said this power of expectation goes beyond an internal anticipation. It can come from someone else. For example, just observing people or otherwise making them feel more special could also lead to the desired outcome — perhaps making people work harder or sticking to a task longer.

So, here are your key takeaways: Employees, start thinking about wine. And bosses, start making the employees feel special!

Then we’ll all actually be special AND relaxed. And we’ll live happily ever after …

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