Written by: Lauryn Gerard
February is often coined as the month of love, but have you ever considered the benefits love can have on your overall health? Now, regardless of whether you fall into the group that enjoys the celebration of love and Valentine’s Day or the group that could seriously do without the pink hearts and love poems everywhere, there’s no denying that love itself can yield important health benefits that can impact your mental, emotional and even your physical well-being. Also, nobody said you have to be romantically involved to enjoy the benefits of a healthy relationship!
Take a look at how love and health are connected.
Increases Life Expectancy: Research suggests that married people in particular but those also involved in healthy social relationships typically live longer. The benefits of these relationships can even lower your risk of heart attack, developing certain types of cancer or pneumonia.
Maintains a Healthy Heart: Studies indicate that those who are involved in good, strong, happy marriages have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who are in stressful relationships or tend to feel lonely more often.
Keeps the Doctor Away: Feeling loved, cared for and secure tends to boosts the immune system and reduce the chance of catching a cold or other viral infections. Those who have a loving support system also tend to recover more quickly from an illness.
Reduces Depression: Falling in love, getting married and maintaining healthy relationships, as well as friendships, have been shown to reduce the feelings of isolation and depression in both males and females while simultaneously increasing the sense of belonging and happiness.
Lowers Blood Pressure: Happily married couples have been shown to have the best blood pressure values in relation to those who are unhappily married or single, according to one study. So, when you’re with the one you love, that lightness feeling you have in your heart may actually be your blood pressure dropping.
Decreases Anxiety: MRI scans have shown that those who are involved in stable, long-term relationships had greater activity and activation in the part of the brain that is responsible for the reward/pleasure response and less activation in the area of the brain associated with anxiety.
Reduces Stress Levels: Due to the security and support healthy relationships tend to offer, you are less likely to feel stressed if you have a partner or close friend to help you through difficult situations or emotions.
Eases Acute or Chronic Pain: Similar to how love reduces anxiety, love can also increase activity in the area of the brain associated with the control of pain. Happily married couples have reported having fewer complaints of back pain and headaches.
Helps Your Gut: 80% of your immune system (and the vast majority of your body’s microbes) reside in your gut. The feeling of love can help to nurture and support your life-enhancing gut microbiome and fight off harmful bacteria that can make you feel under the weather.
Betters Your Sleep: Because loving relationships lead to less stress, you are more likely to sleep well and feel refreshed when you wake in the morning. Tensions are eased when you feel loved and supported and evidence suggests that happily married couples are 10% more likely to have a more restful sleep.
To conclude, if you are looking to lead a healthier life and reap the mental, emotional and physical benefits that healthy relationships can lead to, it’s important to cultivate those relationships in your life that make you feel secure and supported – may they be romantic or not. Happy Valentine’s Day, stay healthy!