5 Ways Love is Good for Your Health
Hello, lovers of all ages! Will you be buying a Valentine’s gift for someone you love tomorrow? Will it be a card shaped as a beautiful red heart with lace all around? Or maybe it’ll be a heart-shaped box of candy? Whatever it is, I bet it’s going to be shaped like a heart!
The heart has been a symbol of love for centuries. It all probably started back in the seventh century BCE, when the heart shape was used to represent the fruit of the plant silphium, which was possibly used as birth control. Ancient Egyptians believed the heart represented life and morality. The Greeks thought it was in charge of logic and thought. In the Middle Ages, the heart began to symbolize Christ’s love for humanity, and when Valentine’s Day originated in England in the 1600s, the heart symbol took its place as a symbol of romantic love.
But unlike other traditional links between body parts and emotion (like storing all your anger in your liver or being depressed if you had too much phlegm), having love in your life actually improves your heart’s health –– I mean, the physical heart in your body that pumps blood and oxygen to all of your organs.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be romantic love. This can be love we have for our families, friends, pets, even a pet rock –– it’s all good; it all helps.
Let’s look at some of the ways love can keep you healthy, not just on Valentine’s Day but all year ‘round.
A lot of our stress is caused by a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is released during times of stress and activates the “fight or flight” response when your body perceives a threat. It’s a critically important hormone to help the body react properly to stress or danger, but it’s easy to have too much cortisol running around in the body, which can lead to heightened anxiety and stress when there’s no need for it.
Shared time with a loved one can help to lower those levels. Dr. Karen Grewen, a psychiatrist at the University of North Carolina, led a study that measured cortisol levels. 38 couples participated. Their blood pressure, stress levels, and oxytocin were measured before and after they talked about a happy moment, watched five minutes of a romantic film, and hugged for 20 seconds.
When they were tested afterwards, the couples’ stress hormones were lower and their oxytocin levels were higher. Grewen even stated that you don’t need to be in a romantic relationship to feel the benefits of shared time with a loved one: “There is research showing that having a same-sex friend lowers the stress response,” Grewen explained. “Friends, people with pets, etc., may elicit oxytocin and there may be positive effects downstream — single people are not doomed!”
And if you have someone in your life who’s into giving massages, so much the better. Getting a massage causes muscles to unclench, slows the heart rate and drops cortisol levels. Your relaxed body is able to recharge and regroup. And just taking the time with a loved one to focus on relaxation and healing is wonderful for your mental and emotional state as well.
Improves Your Mental Health
When you’re with a loved one, your brain releases a chemical called oxytocin. Oxytocin is sometimes called the “love hormone” because it’s activated when you hug or when you look into the eyes of someone you love. It’s what’s released when a mother holds her newborn baby, creating a bond for life. The release of oxytocin makes people more secure and trusting.
Oxytocin can provide some serious mental health benefits. Researchers at the University of California San Diego have found that oxytocin helps patients with schizophrenia and depression. Oxytocin may also help women with anxiety disorders.
It’s also been found that oxytocin can permanently rewrite neural pathways in the brain around social behaviour. Researchers conducted a study that found that when virgin female mice are given oxytocin, they can react to the distress calls of a baby mouse, despite never having bonded with it. The researchers said that these findings show that oxytocin plays a big role in determining how the brain processes social cues.
“We found that oxytocin turns up the volume of social information processed in the brain. This suggests that it could one day be used to treat social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, speech and language disorders, and even psychological issues stemming from child abuse,” explained Robert Froemke of New York University Langone and senior investigator on the study, published in the journal Nature.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Having love in your life literally takes pressure off your heart. A study conducted by Brooks Gump, assistant professor of Psychology at the State University of New York Oswego, measured the effects of people being with their spouses and partners. 120 people wore blood pressure monitors over a six-day period.
The study found that, even if the relationship wasn’t a happy one, the blood pressure dropped. “The lowering was not a big difference, but it’s significant,” said Gump. He added that the familiarity created by being in a relationship is what made the blood pressure drop. These people were in predictable situations with someone they knew really well, so there was less to bring the pressure up. “People in poor relationships tended to avoid their spouses more, but overall their blood pressure still went down when they were together,” Gump said.
Our four-legged furry friends are also great for keeping the blood pressure down. Studies have shown that people who interact with dogs have lower blood pressure than those who don’t. Touch appears to be a major part of the positive effects of dogs, with blood pressures lowest when people actually pet the animals rather than just speaking to them.
Improves Your Immune System
This one feels extra unfair: people who are lonely are more likely to get sick. If you’re lonely, you’re more likely to reactivate viruses that have been latent in your body, which means getting sick all over again. Lonely people are also more likely to produce inflammatory compounds in response to stress.
Researcher Lisa Jaremka of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research looked into the link between loneliness and a compromised immune system. She and her team tested 200 female breast cancer survivors by analyzing their blood for antibodies against common viruses that can remain dormant in the body but still trigger the immune system to produce antibodies or protective proteins to help the immune system fight viruses. Participants were also asked to fill out questionnaires about their loneliness levels.
The results showed that when participants were lonely, they had higher levels of antibodies in their blood. “It’s definitely indicating that the immune system is compromised in some way,” Jaremka told LiveScience. “It’s unable at that time, for whatever reason, in this case loneliness perhaps, to keep that virus under control.
John Cacioppo, a social psychologist at the University of Chicago, conducted a study with Steve Cole of the University of California Los Angeles. They examined how the immune system of people who are isolated changes over time. They found that genes in lonely people were overexpressing in immune system activation and inflammation. “What we see is a consistent pattern where it looks like human immune cells are programmed with a defensive strategy that gets activated in lonely people,” said Cole.
When you have a lot of love in your life, cortisol levels drop. Since cortisol is one of the chief triggers of your immune system (when you get stressed your body gets ready to fight off infection), the lack of the stress hormone allows your immune system to keep calm.
Regular sex can also improve your immune system. A study conducted at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania showed that people who had sex once or twice a week had 30% more immunoglobulin in their saliva than people who had sex less often. This saliva fights infections in the body, so the more you have of it, the better.
You Sleep Better
It may not seem like it if your partner’s a big snorer, but sleeping next to someone you love makes you sleep better.
Sharing a bed helps to lower cortisol levels and increase oxytocin. We know that oxytocin is released during sex, but Dr. David Hamilton, a scientist who examines the role of oxytocin, says it’s also associated with actually sleeping together. “Sleeping together will increase oxytocin levels, providing you are happy in the relationship,” Hamilton told the Daily Mail. “Making love is one of the most reliable ways to produce oxytocin, as is going to sleep embracing someone, or just being physically happy in their company or with the conversation you are having in bed.”
Lead researcher Dr. Wendy Troxel of the University of Pittsburgh published a study in 2009 that showed women in long-term stable relationships fall asleep quicker than single women. They also wake up less frequently. ”Feelings of safety and security with a partner may lead to more restful sleep,” Troxel said.
And we can’t overestimate the importance of sleep for overall health. Sleep is the time your body repairs, recharges and gets ready for a new day. When we don’t get enough sleep, our brain function, body function, and emotional function all suffer and we end up spending way too much money on coffee.
Show your heart a little extra love by feeding it high-quality flaxseed oil. Studies have shown that flaxseed oil can lower cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease. Flax is also rich in healthy fats and other key nutrients. According to Dr. Edward Group at Global Healing Center, “the risk of heart disease is lower in individuals who take flaxseed oil. Evidence indicates that those who eat a lot of ALA [alpha-linolenic acid] are less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack and it reduces high blood pressure.”
Flaxseed oil offers your body more benefits than flax seeds alone, which are so small they can pass through your body without being broken down. If they don’t break down, you can’t access the nutrition in them.
Activation is proud to supply the best oil on the market: our Perfect Press® Flax Oil. We use only the finest organic flaxseeds, and each batch is hand-selected. We created state-of-the-art technology that presses the oil out of each seed without damaging its powerful yet delicate components.