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Love and Longevity: Can being in love help you live longer?

It’s no secret that love is good for us.  There are proven health benefits to being in love.  

Research suggests that married people and those involved in healthy social relationships typically live longer. You don’t need to be in a romantic relationship to benefit from love.  Healthy relationships of any type can lower risks for heart attacks or even certain types of cancer.  

Other benefits of love that could increase longevity:

  • Boosts the immune system.  
  • Reduces depression.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Less anxiety.
  • Less stress.
  • Provides relief to acute or chronic pain.
  • Good for your gut microbiome.
  • Better sleep.

If you and your spouse or partner are in a happy relationship, you’re more likely to stick with healthy choices.  These include eating well, exercising, and avoiding drugs and alcohol. All of these physical health habits promote good mental health as well.

Oxytocin is Love Potion

If you’ve ever had a baby, you’ve probably heard of oxytocin.  It’s what a mother’s body releases to start childbirth contractions.  Doctors can also administer it to help speed things along.  But it’s also a fascinating hormone that is getting some attention in the scientific community.  

Oxytocin is also called “the love hormone.”  It’s what makes you feel good when you are with someone you love.  It’s a natural antidepressant.  A recent discovery shows that oxytocin may decrease the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol contributes to stress and weakens the immune system.  

Oxytocin is produced in the brain by the hypothalamus, transfers to the pituitary gland which releases it into the bloodstream.  Cells all over our body have oxytocin receptors.  Oxytocin increases in many people during hugging and during sex.  Like mother and child, it’s tied to bonding, whether with a partner or among friends.  

Some of the studies done with the hormone involve giving oxytocin through a nasal spray.  The results show a definite correlation with bonding.  One study showed that oxytocin improved self perception in social situations and increased personality traits such as warmth, trust, altruism, and openness.  Another study suggested that it may help keep men faithful to their partners because it activates reward centers in the brain.  And researchers published findings that people saw facial expression of emotions in others more intensely after receiving oxytocin.  

The Heart Loves Love

Love and Valentine’s Day have always been associated with the heart.  This powerful muscle has nothing to do with our thoughts and feelings, but those thoughts and feelings can be good for that powerful muscle.  But how?

Stress.

Extreme emotional stress can lead to heart failure.  Have you ever heard of someone dying of a broken heart?  Scientists can’t say exactly what causes broken heart syndrome known as stress cardiomyopathy, but it is a physical condition that causes heart muscle weakness.  It comes on quickly and usually resolves on its own.  It’s caused by grief, fear, or anger.  

Love and Mental Health

Love can heal your body and your brain.  Research shows that love, whether romantic, family, or friends, has positive effects on your mental health.  Just knowing that you have someone to support you and talk about things is comforting to a lot of people.  If you’ve ever been through a breakup and your friends want to go out for a night on the town, that’s love!  It provides a distraction and other people to vent to.  

This said, love is not a cure all for mental illness.  If you are struggling with mental health and depression that doesn’t seem to get better after time with the people you love, seek help!  

Choose Love 

There are a lot of benefits to feeling love, but what about giving it?  You have a choice in your daily interactions to give love to your partner, friends, family and even strangers.  When you choose love over negativity, it is calming.  That little smile or “thank you” from another human can make all the difference in the world to someone and reflects positively on you.

Loving yourself and others has benefits beyond feeling good.  It helps your physical and mental health and contributes to a longer life. 

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