In 1999 Japanese scientist Masatoshi Tanaka subjected rats to electric shock that they couldn’t avoid and watched their stomach lining go to hell.
There were two groups of rats: The first couldn’t do anything at all and the second could bite into a wooden stick.
It turned out that being able to chew a stick lowered the amount of physical damage to the body because the stress stopped being perceived as uncontrollable. Supposedly the rat thinks that while it’s chewing a stick it’s doing everything in its power for the shock to stop.
It doesn’t, of course, cause the shock to stop, but the stress hormones don’t damage your body as much.
It’s possible that the same principle works in other areas, writes Asena, the biologist who I was reading. If you are unhappy in love, the most useful thing to do is to start a large project at work and get convinced that when it’s over, everything will be peachy. If a person is Dorothy, she gets to fight wicked witches and figure out how to make all sorts of weird characters around her feel better. If a person is not happy with the political situation, he can go work on a campaign. That kind of thing.
It’s not proven that this would help alleviate the main source of stress, but you’re happy and occupied, and you get to keep whatever good comes out of it.