Valentine’s Day. So many of my friends hate this supposed romantic holiday. They feel stress, guilt, disappointment and/or feel that it is a contrived, forced commercial holiday. I too feel that it’s a commercial holiday and that love should be shown more than one day out of the year. However, the power of love is not just a romantic cliche. Romantic love is not the only type of love out there. There is friendship, parental love, religious love, certain types of love that is sexual but not romantic, crushes and agape love. I’m sure there are others.
Do you ever wonder if love affects your health? A couple years ago I did some research because I was curious about it. Women with breast cancer who were in support groups survived twice as long as women without help.1 After a serious illness, people who own pets had a higher survival rate and fewer complications.2 Studies are showing that having a positive relationship protects against disease. When you are happy and joyful, feeling loved, loving back, happy to be alive, that message gets transferred to your immune system.
Cortisol is a hormone that is involved in stress and the “fight or flight” feeling. A study was done of newlywed couples’ cortisol levels along with positive and negative word count during a 30 minute period while the couples discussed their relationship history. When the wives described their marriages using negative words, their cortisol levels were much higher than their husbands who were experiencing the same negative events. After ten years, the women whose cortisol increased were more than twice as likely to be divorced.3
In naturopathic medical school we were taught that spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health are interwoven. When we are filled with love, joy and peace, our brains produce endorphins and other chemicals which have a healing effect upon our bodies.
Why doesn’t the presence of love in our life cure us all of the time? I think it’s the combination of genetics, environment and free will. Sometimes we don’t make the lifestyle choices that are in our best interests. Sometimes we are in environments that we can’t control and it results in disease. Lastly, we all have to die of something at some point.
My general advice for feeling loved is to take care of yourself, love yourself. Specifically you can increase your feeling of being loved by:
Eat regular planned meals in a relaxed environment.
Make good friends with whom you can communicate your emotional life.
Participate in activities that foster a feeling of happiness in yourself.
Don’t put yourself down when you make a mistake, just resolve to do better next time.
When you are feeling overwhelmed, seek help from loved ones, support groups, your spirtual leader, counselor or health professional.
I’m pretty sure there are good things about being a grumpy or sad person, but if you can manage to have a little love in your life, I think you’ll find that you do actually feel better whether it’s emotionally or physically.
1 Taken from Breastcancer.org.
2 18th Annual Conference on the International Society of Anthrozoology and the First Human Animal Interaction Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, in November 2009. Read more at Suite101: Pet Therapy Dogs Help Patients Recover Faster: Healing Using Animal Assisted Therapy
3Presented at the American Psychological Association Annual Meeting on August 4, 2000 by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser.