Love and Your Health
It’s February and love is in the air.
What comes to mind for you this month?
For many, two things are likely to surface:
1. February is designated as American Heart Month to advocate cardiovascular health and raise awareness about heart disease. American Heart Month is a wonderful opportunity to focus our attention on ways to promote and maintain heart health.
2. It’s also the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine which originated as a Christian feast day honoring one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and, through later folk traditions, has become a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and love in many regions of the world (1).
We have our hearts, and we have love.
How are the two connected when it comes to our health and well being?
In more ways than one, and some of which may surprise you!
Below are some fun and interesting facts about how and why being in love (not just with others but by practicing self love) and choosing to have a perspective in which we lead with love can actually help us become healthier, more balanced people overall.
- Being in love can help reduce blood pressure. One theory on why love is good for your health is that blood pressure responds to calmness and peace; if you’re in love, you’re calmer and more at peace, which could translate into lower blood pressure (2).
- When you lock eyes with the person who makes your heart race, your brain releases hormones such as dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, which make your heart beat faster and stronger. These short-lived spikes can train your heart to pump blood more efficiently, similar to the way aerobic exercise would (3).
- Writing a letter to a loved can benefits your heart. Recent research says that healthy college students who spend 20 minutes writing notes of gratitude to friends or family members will experience drops in cholesterol levels compared to groups who write about random topics (4).
- Anecdotally, love is a matter of the heart. However, the main organ affected by love is actually the brain! Brain scans of volunteers in a study, while they viewed images of their significant other, revealed that when the participants gazed at the face of the person they were in love with, some specific brain areas lit up: the medial insula, the anterior cingulate cortex, and segments of the dorsal striatum (5).
- The love we have for our pets is significant, too; regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Pets can help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship (6).
- The heart chakra, or anahata chakra in Sanskrit, is located at the center of the spine at heart level. Anahata roughly translates to, “unhurt.” Accordingly, the heart chakra acts as the individual’s center of compassion, empathy, love, and forgiveness (9). The heart chakra is associated with air, and its mantra is, “I love.” Consider the connection between proper breathing, and how we feel when we do anything but!
Likely, there are elements of the benefits listed above that are not revolutionary; it makes sense that we’d feel calm around our dogs and that we’d experience feelings of positivity when our heart is fluttering at the start of a new and exciting relationship.
But how about self-love?
What is it, anyway?
Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others (7).
Loving ones self is not to be confused with being self-absorbed or a feeling of superiority; far from it.
It’s simply the acknowledgement that the feelings we have for ourselves, the way we treat bodies, our emotional needs and how we view ourselves overall has a tremendous impact on how we view life and the company we keep… including our immediate circle of friends and family (including chosen family, not necessarily only those related though blood).
People who love themselves are less likely to suffer from anxiety or depression; self-love also paves the way to a positive mindset which is an essential ingredient for success in life and for mental wellbeing. Learning to love yourself also reduces stress, lessens procrastination and makes you more focused at work (8).
One more thing to consider on the subject of self-love; it’s something we can begin to practice now. No waiting for the person of your dreams to appear like the proverbial knight on shining armor, or having to bide your time until you finally find the dream house with a beautiful yard so you can finally become a dog parent.
Incidentally, one self-love (and an increased attention to self-care) becomes something practiced every day, you just might be surprised how much more quickly that dream person manifest into your life… as well as the home, and everything else you’ve always wanted.
It starts from within.
INspiration: Breathe IN.
Try it: breath in, be still, listen and see what shows up.