Given that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, love is in the air! You may be looking forward to flowers, a box of chocolates, or a fancy dinner. But what about the other benefits of love?
A recent study looked at the health benefits of love on the body and compared this to stress. Chronic stress had a direct effect on the nervous system and led to outcomes like worsening of cardiovascular function, poor memory, weaker immune response, and an increase in depression and anxiety.
In comparison, love worked in the limbic system and effects emotional responses. Love was shown to increase immune response for fighting diseases and decrease depression and anxiety. Love leads to a release of a variety of neurotransmitters (endorphins, oxytocin, domapine) that act to increase bonding and decrease stress reactions. The overall outcome is a feeling of well being with deep feelings of motivation, pleasure, and reward.
Being in close proximity with a partner has been shown to decrease cortisol levels and reduce stress. People in love have also been shown to have fewer doctors’ visits, lower blood pressure, less alcohol and substance abuse, fewer colds, and a longer overall lifespan.
Who needs candy and flowers when your partner has given you all of these wonderful aspects of health? Make plans to spend time together doing an activity that you both love, whether it is cooking a healthy meal together or a fun physical activity. Focus not on the gifts and commercialism, but the actual love you have for each other and bask in your dopamine bliss.
Don’t feel down if you are single this Valentine’s day. Many studies have shown similar benefits from a strong connection to family and friends. Make plans with those you love around you and boost your health in the meantime with a group activity or a family gathering. Get your physical contact through bear hugs from your nearest and dearest. In fact, frequent hugs alone have been proven to be beneficial to your health.
Happy Valentine’s Day from the Center for Women’s Health!