During the month of February the emphasis is on the season of ‘love’! It’s all about cupid, that special someone, the romantic evening, the chocolates and roses. In reality, love knows no season, love takes many forms, and is an amazing component of great health.
While the romantic kind of love is wonderful and very important, the love that sustains us and keeps us healthy is often much more extensive and deep-rooted than romantic love. Long term, healthy love can be in the form of the emotional and physical love found in marriage, and there is a much more subtle, much less physical form of love found in healthy, stable relationships with friends, family or colleagues.
People are social beings and finding love from connection with others is very important. We thrive when we are in close-knit communities. Specifically, having a strong social network, feeling valued and respected by others, feeling a sense of belonging, and feeling loved and supported are what makes us happy and affects our health.
Here are six specific ways that love helps us to have great health:
1. Improved Heart health
- Studies have shown that happiness can affect blood pressure. People who are happy tend to have lower blood pressure than people who are not happy.
- Statistics show that people who are in healthy, committed relationships generally have less heart attacks. In particular, people who have lost their spouse have a higher rate of heart attacks.
- Studies show that physical touch and hugging can lower blood pressure, lower heart rate and cause the body to have smaller heart rate increases.
- Kind and loving actions have the power to neutralize negative situations and emotions. Negative emotions can adversely affect the heart and the immune system.
2. Positive effects on the brain
The ‘elated’ feeling of love and connection is actually physical. Studies show that long term love and happiness actually have two physical effects:
- It stimulates various parts of the brain, particularly the depression center, the anxiety center and the pain center. The result is decreased depression, anxiety and pain.
- It stimulates production of brain chemicals such as oxytocin and dopamine, which affects trust, pleasure and reward.
3. Reduced stress level
- Stress goes down when people feel emotionally supported by others. For example: when there is a sudden change in life like loss of a job, it is easier to cope when a person feels supported.
- People generally experience less stress when they are in committed, healthy relationships. Reduced stress levels can be beneficial for the heart.
- Less stress = less free-floating cortisol which can reduce the risk of stress induced acne – that means healthier skin.
4 Stronger immune system
- The immune system is stronger and healthier when there is less stress, less anxiety and more positive emotions. Conversely, negative emotions and negative, unstable relationships can cause a strain on the immune system.
- Statistics show that many people heal faster when they are happy and feel connected with each other. This equates to less doctor visits and even shorter hospital stays.
- Healthy, stable, committed relationships make us happy, give us positive energy and emotions, and can motivate us to take better care of ourselves.
- Friends and relatives are often motivated to help each other to stay healthy. Examples of this are: buddying up and working out together at the gym, or taking a healthy cooking class together.
- Love and connectedness with others encourages positive emotions, and in turn that can motivate us to have kind and loving actions within our communities.
6. Increased longevity
- Commitment in a long-term relationship encourages people to give up some risky behaviors, such as excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, which can help with the longevity factor.
- Happy people tend to live longer because their happiness has a positive effect on their overall outlook on life and their immune system.
There is definitely some wisdom in the short saying “Live, Laugh and Love”! Maintaining a strong social network and strong healthy relationships can help you live a vibrant, healthy and long life!
Copyright © 2015 Cathy Ormon – All Rights Reserved