By Dawna Bennett, MS, RD, CDN
Love comes in many forms: the love between friends, spouses, partners, relatives, and even between pets and their owners can be transformative and can actually improve your health physically and emotionally. Love reduces stress, boosts immunity, reduces pain, and extends your life. And, believe it or not, your gut benefits from feelings of love as well since the reduction in stress helps your body maintain healthy bacteria.
When you partake in a warm embrace with someone you love, your body releases oxytocin – the feel-good hormone – which has the power to reduce stress hormones and lower blood pressure. Love makes your heart stronger. Whether it is love for a child, a new crush or the love of your life, your brain releases the hormones 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.
Laughter also is great for your health, improving your mental health potentially increasing your overall sense of well-being. Take time to build connections and interact with others. Meet with friends and family, make new acquaintances and work on becoming part of a strong community. The connections will have a positive impact on your health and well-being. Feelings of joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm, and contentment can stem from having people you love in your life. People who have a positive outlook on life fight diseases better than people who do not.
Love can change your life and improve your health every time you are fortunate to give love or receive love. This Valentine’s Day make it a goal to believe with all your heart that you are worthy of love. Start by loving yourself and then pay it forward – the world always needs more love and laughter!