Love. This time of year, when Valentine’s Day cards are piled on store shelves, we see the commercialization of this simple yet meaningful word. But when all the pink glitter and candy hearts fall away, though, what’s left? Love is not only the inspiration for millennia of poets and artists but, as it turns out, the key to your heart is also the key to a healthy and happy life.
Love has a positive impact on every dimension of human health. From the start, we are wired to seek out loving relationships. Whether that means friends, family, or a lover, it’s all made of the same potent stuff that can help us live a happier and more fulfilling existence. You may not need to be convinced of the benefits of love, but we rounded up a list anyway. Let it serve as a reminder to spread more of this good stuff around our community.
- Love can make you feel less sensitive to pain or threat. In other words, love makes us feel safe. In a big, often mean world, our small, human frames can feel vulnerable, but through the power of love, we don’t feel quite so alone.
- Love spurs healthy emotional development and attachments. As babies, we all search for love from our caregiver(s). When a parent talks to a child, touches them gently, or rocks them to sleep, they’re infusing their offspring with feelings of love. A child that feels unconditionally loved is much more likely to form healthy attachments later in life and may have healthier emotional development.
- Love boosts the immune system. Living during a pandemic requires a healthy immune system, so why not look to love to help you along? Maintaining close and loving relationships throughout the current global crisis can help ease feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can cause a decrease in immune function. Make sure to check in on elderly relatives who are especially prone to feeling lonely.
- Love makes us feel more open to the world around us. Because we feel safe in our close and loving relationships, we’re more likely to feel safe in showing our true selves to the world.
- Romantic love is a source of passion. Being in an intimate relationship with another person can be scary, thrilling, and beautiful. Our openness and vulnerability in these relationships also serve as grounds for passion to rise to the surface. Passion doesn’t have to mean only sexual chemistry. Experiencing something together as a couple fuels your sense of adventure and living, and that is passion, too.
- Love lowers stress hormones. Loving another and being loved in return causes a release of hormones such as oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, all of which reduce stress and instill a happy, calm feeling within the body.
- Love helps us feel understood. All people are looking to be seen and understood. When we aren’t, we often fall into loneliness or depression. Having the love and support of friends, family, or a strong romantic relationship can ease these feelings.
- Love is a source of growth and self-discovery. Not all love is easy. Some love challenges us in ways that we could never imagine and asks us to grow to new heights. When we consistently rise to these challenges, we begin to become the best version of ourselves.
- Love reduces anxiety. Aside from lowering stress, the hormones produced from giving and receiving love calm anxiety in the brain and body. This is especially powerful when there is physical touch involved. We all know this instinctively, which is why the quarantine and “no hugging” policy has been difficult for so many.
- Love makes us live longer. Studies have shown that married couples enjoy more longevity than singles. This can also be true for the relationships that sustain us as we age, such as close friendships or family. In fact, one of the biggest factors in healthy aging is close and meaningful relationships to combat loneliness.
Love is important not just because it saturates so much of what we see in the media but because it has impactful physical and emotional benefits that keep us happy and healthy for a lifetime. Humans are wired for connection, and loving relationships are where we receive the greatest benefit. We know that the COVID-19 outbreak has been difficult, as we are more isolated from those we love than ever before. But take heart in knowing that this time will end, and we will once again be reunited. We can’t wait to see all of the love bloom!