Young lady enjoys her picnic Picture: Pixel

PEOPLE who go to their ‘happy place’ in times of stress may seem a little strange.

But thinking about a time when you were happy is one of the best ways to cope with pressure, a study has found.

Remembering good times can cut stress responses by 85 per cent, firing up the reward centres in the brain and even stopping the heart racing.

Psychologists at Rutgers University in New York say ‘self-generated’ positive emotions help the brain widen its focus from a bad situation.

The study’s authors, Dr Mauricio Delgado and Megan Speer, wrote in the journal Nature Human Behaviour: ‘When uncontrolled, psychological stress can drive us far from a desirable state, enhancing positive feelings by reminiscing about the past may be one way to bring us back.’

The researchers tested memories’ effect on stress by asking 134 volunteers to plunge their hands into icy water.

Some then spent 14 seconds thinking about good memories, such as a family holiday or a trip to Disneyland, while others focused on neutral memories, such as packing for the trip.

The results showed those who thought about happy times felt calmer and that the expected rise in their levels of stress hormone cortisol was 15 per cent, on average, of that seen in the other group.

Miss Speer added: ‘If you are very stressed, your heart is racing and your palms are sweating. This study suggests that thinking of previous happy memories will likely help relive that stress. There is something specific about memory which seems to be more distracting than simply thinking positive thoughts.’

© Daily Mail