This May Be the Weirdest Use for Tylenol

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It's important to cultivate resilience, the ability to spring back after encountering a setback. Really feeling your feelings can help you recover and move on far better than blaming everything else. Scientists are finding odd new connections between emotional pain and the body all the time, though, which means that in some cases, you may be able to take a pill to speed hurt feelings along.


Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have just published a study on the role acetaminophen can play in resolving social pain. That's the active ingredient in Tylenol, and often the generic name in off-brand painkillers. The team looked into the aftermath of social rejection, the kind of lingering ache you feel after the end of a relationship, a job, or a friendship. Study participants who took 1,000 mg of acetaminophen every day for three weeks actually reduced the amount of social pain they felt.

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There's an additional step to getting those results, however. Taking a pill wasn't enough; participants also had to forgive those who had hurt them. Those who did saw a nearly 20-percent drop in measures of social pain, including sadness, depression, and loneliness.


The reason this works is still under investigation. "[A]cetaminophen likely reduces social pain by influencing pain signaling in the brain through its effects on specific brain pathways," said senior author George Slavich. "On the other hand, forgiveness has been found to lessen peoples' feelings of stress and anger following experiences of social rejection and exclusion."

These studies aren't necessarily so straightforward as they sound. That said, it's worth keeping an eye on what else research can tell us — and how we might integrate those findings day to day.