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Giving yourself a break might add years to your life

Update Date: Apr 09, 2014 05:26 AM EDT

Chill out because it might just save your life, according to researchers.

New research reveals that lifespan could be affected by how people deal with stress. The latest findings suggest that learning to adequately deal with stress can actually add years to your life.

U.S. researchers from The Brandeis University found that people who forgive themselves for mistakes are physically healthier than those who obsess over them.

Researchers said that the latest study shows that that the secret to longevity is to take it easy and give yourself a break.

The study revealed a link between a self-compassionate attitude and lower levels of stress-induced inflammation.  Researchers defined self-compassion as behaviors like self-forgiveness, or giving yourself a break. People with high levels of self-compassion generally do not blame themselves for stress beyond their control and are more likely to move on from an argument, rather than obsessively thinking about it for days on end.

Researchers believe the latest findings could pave the way for new methods to treat stress and boost health.

Stress is deadly, as it can induce biological responses similar to the effects of disease or injury, such as inflammation.

While regulated inflammation can help prevent infection or boost healing, unregulated inflammation can cause heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers.

The latest study involved 41 participants who were asked to rank their levels of self-compassion. Participants were asked to rate the level they agree with statements like: "I try to be understanding and patient toward aspects of my personality I do not like" and "I'm disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies."

Later, participants took one stress test a day for two days. Researchers then recorded participants' levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), an inflammatory agent linked to stress, before and after each test.

The findings revealed that participants with higher self-compassion had significantly lower levels of IL-6 after the first stress test compared to those with lower self-compassion scores.

Researchers also found that those with low self-compassion showed higher baseline levels on the second day had higher baseline levels on the second day. Researchers said this finding suggests that people with who worry are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of psychological stress.

"The high responses of IL-6 on the first day and the higher baseline levels on the second day suggest that people with low self-compassion are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of this kind of stress," said Rohleder, according to Counsel & Heal.

Researchers said the study highlights the importance of managing stress. Stress builds over time, and seemingly small daily annoyances, like waiting in line, can shorten a person's lifespan if they don't have strategies to deal with it properly.

"Hopefully, this research can provide more effective ways to cope with stress and reduce disease, not only by relieving negative emotions but by fostering positive ideas of self compassion," Rohleder said in a news release.

The findings are published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

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