To give and receive love is truly one of the greatest feelings on earth. We know that it makes us feel happy, warm, and content but does that translate to actual health benefits? Can love contribute to a healthier and longer life? CMC Primary Care gets us to the heart of the matter.
When was the last time you experienced a warm embrace? Not only can a hug provide the emotional support you need, but it can also lower blood pressure and raise levels of oxytocin, a hormone that plays a role in social bonding. A recent study of premenopausal women published by the Journal of Biological Psychology found that frequent hugs between women and their partners did just that. Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, is associated with empathy, trust, and relationship building.
Remember, love comes in all forms. Whether you are married or single, young, or old, everyone can benefit from giving and receiving love. Harvard scientists studying social connections determined that positive social connections help to relieve harmful stress levels, which can adversely affect your arteries, gut function, and ability to regulate insulin. The study also showed that having positive, loving relationships can help boost your immune system. Connecting with others in a meaningful way comes easy for some, but not for everyone. If you feel isolated or unable to connect, consider joining a new activity, social club, or support group to get out of your comfort zone and meet others. If stress or anxiety makes meeting others or connecting with others difficult, consider talking with your primary care doctor about your concerns.
“If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
– Love Actually
We now know that love can help our physical health but what about our mental health? Having healthy and loving relationships with others can have a big impact on your self-worth and self-esteem. Important for everyone, but especially for young adults as they dive into adolescence and new social environments where comparison can become overwhelming. Feeling loved and valued by others helps to promote healthier lifestyle choices, good self-esteem, lessens stress factors, and provides better life-long mental health. A strong sense of self-worth can also lead to healthier relationships now and in the future.
You may have heard the saying “you need to learn to love yourself before you can love others?” Though it may seem like a line in a romantic comedy, it holds a lot of truth. Learning to love yourself can lead to a positive sense of self-worth resulting in stronger relationships and better decision making. What are some ways you can learn to love yourself? Creating a self-care routine is a great start! Activities like yoga, meditation, reading, walking on the beach, a hot bath, or writing in a gratitude journal are all ways you can fill your emotional tank. Another way we can practice self-love and self-care is by using positive self-talk. We all have that little voice in our heads that can tell us we aren’t worthy. Quiet that voice by practicing daily affirmations via your inner voice. “I am smart, I am worthy, I am capable.”
Where else can you receive love? Volunteering can be a wonderful way to add more love to your life! Whether it be at your local humane society, your child’s school, church, or our favorite, your local hospital, giving freely of one’s time can have lasting effects. Often, the one doing the giving is the one receiving the biggest gift of all.