The other night, I walked in the door from work and was immediately greeted by my two giggling daughters. “Love is in the air,” they proclaimed, as they wrapped their arms around me for hugs.
Oh, February. Oh, Valentine’s Day. Oh, love and smitten daughters – welcome back.
With all of the giddiness surrounding this holiday – even this whole month – I began to wonder about the benefits of being in love. Can love help improve your mental and physical health?
Turns out there are four big health benefits that arise from being in love:
1. A healthy heart
When some people think Valentine’s Day, they think red wine and chocolate. Turns out, these items may be good for your heart, because they are rich in protective antioxidants. In an Ask the Expert column, Dr. Vivek Kesara explains, “Certain antioxidants have been shown to lower the risk for heart disease by increasing the levels of high-density lipoproteins (known as “good” cholesterol) in the blood and defending the arteries against damage.”
Now, don’t go out and start drinking or consuming large amounts of chocolate. While these items can be part of a nutritious diet, moderation is key.
2. Lower blood pressure
A study conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services found that happily married couples had lower blood pressure levels than unmarried people. Not married? No problem. According to the Journal of Psychology and Aging, people with loving, quality friendships had lower blood pressure than those without.
3. Boosted immunity
According to an article in The Washington Post titled “Health benefits of falling and staying in love,” researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that individuals who experience positive emotions – the kind that could arise from being in a happy relationship – were more resistant to the common cold than those who felt anxious, hostile or depressed.
4. Better self-care
In that same Washington Post article, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, an associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, says, “Loving spouses tend to encourage preventive care, reinforce healthy behaviors such as exercise and flossing, and dissuade unhealthy ones, such as heavy drinking.” She continues, “Romantic relationships also can provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life that can translate to better self-care and less risk taking.”
So, what does all of this mean?
Embrace the heart-shaped confetti. Embrace Valentine’s Day. And, most importantly, embrace the love – whether it’s romantic love from a partner, companionship from a friend, or the kind of unconditional love that can only come from your children – embrace it. And, keep the health benefits coming!