It’s that time of year again: store windows are decked with bright red hearts, boxes of candies are hitting the shelves, and Cupid is on the prowl. With all the plush bears (and more importantly, chocolate) floating around, you may see Valentine’s Day as little more than a commercial holiday, but there’s something to be said for all that love in the air. According to research, being in love may actually have a positive impact on your health. Read on to discover 5 ways love helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
1. Love is good for your heart
It shouldn’t come as too much of surprise, but being in love is good for your heart. According to ABC News, a study conducted by Brooks Gump, a psychology professor at SUNY Oswego, found that when people spend time with their significant others, their blood pressure decreases—even if the relationship isn’t perfect. Gump suspects that the decrease in blood pressure has to do with the familiarity, or sense of security and comfort between partners. In addition, CBN News points out that married couples “have lower rates of heart disease [than] their single counterparts.” Their source, Dr. Harry Lodge, explains that the reason for this is better circulation, or “a healthier, freer flow of blood to your brain,” which allows your brain to “regulate the rest of your body far more effectively.” So the next time you need an excuse to spend a little extra time with your sweetheart, consider the benefits to your heart!
2. Being in love boosts your immunity
With colds and flu raging around us, February is the perfect time of year to give your immune system a little boost. Luckily, research shows that physical intimacy with your partner can help keep your immune system at its best. According to CNN, everything from massages to hand-holding to frequent sex can help lead to a healthier lifestyle and higher immunity. In fact, based on a study at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, the article claims that people who were intimate with each other had a higher percentage of immunoglobulin A—an antibody that helps the immune system fight off germs and bacteria—in their saliva. So go ahead, curl up with your honey and reap the benefit of a healthier immune system.
3. People in relationships live longer
According to Professor and Biologist Dawn Maslar, while falling in love may not be the best for your health, long-term relationships can do wonders for longevity. Maslar states that once a couple has reached the relationship phase, “women in healthy long-term relationships live fifty-percent longer than their single cohorts, while men live a whopping 250-percent longer.” In other words, with love, it’s possible for a man who might only have lived to 40 (had he stayed single) to make it all the way to 100. An article in Harvard Health Publications noted a survey of over 127,000 adults, which found that not only are married men “healthier than men who were never married,” but “men who have marital partners also live longer than men without spouses.”
4. Love is good for your mental health
An article posted on the UC San Diego News Center discusses a clinical trial conducted at the US San Diego School of Medicine to study the affects of oxytocin on depression. According to assistant clinical professor Kai McDonald, MD, oxytocin, or the “love hormone,” plays an important role in the way we process emotional stimuli, especially based off of other individuals’ expressions. This is significant because oxytocin is a chemical that the brain releases when people touch or hug one another; moreover, it is a chemical that alters “nerve pathways” in the brain which impact the way people think and socialize. According to an article in The Independent, oxytocin may be used as an “amplifier and suppressor” to modify neural signals and help treat “social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, speech and language disorders, and even psychological issues.” So, if you’re worried about keeping your mental health in check, being in love might help keep you balanced.
5. Love helps decrease stress
With busy schedules, school assignments, and demanding jobs, it’s easy for almost anyone to get stressed out on a daily basis. Luckily, being in love may be able to help with that. In a 2013 article from the Huffington Post, physical anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher explains the benefits of long-term relationships on stress, stating, “What happens in the brain when you love someone is that there’s more activity in the ‘reward’ system. Your brain floods with dopamine, which gives you focus, energy and optimism, and those things can all be good to counter stress.” In addition, a LinkedIn article cites a study at the University of Pittsburgh, which found that “sleeping next to someone we love can reduce stress.” Evidently, sleeping side-by-side can increase levels of that magical little love hormone, oxytocin, which helps partners bond and feel safer, resulting in quality, stress-reduced sleep.
So when February 14th rolls around, be sure that you and your Valentine carve out some time to be together. Who knew date night could be so good for your health?