“You don’t need money, don’t take fame
Don’t need no credit card to ride this train
It’s strong and it’s sudden and it’s cruel sometimes
But it might just save your life
That’s the power of love.”
© Huey Lewis & The News
There is a physical “power” to love and this power affects your body in a number of ways. More than an elated emotion or fluttering stomach, researchers have discovered real chemical changes in the body when you experience love. Love’s effects are amazing!
Dopamine and oxytocin are two of the well-known chemicals produced when you fall in love, are in a long-term relationship or even experience physical touch. Dopamine is the brain’s pleasure chemical and is responsible for feelings of happiness, excitement and energy. Oxytocin is the chemical that calms, making you feel secure and helping you bond with another person (i.e. intimacy). In order for these chemicals to be released a hug should last at least 20 seconds.
Love can help you feel less stressful or reduce the intensity of a stressful response. Simple things like holding hands with your significant other can decrease stress. Viewing loving images can minimize feeling threatened. Physical touch between you and the person you love reduces the production of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Another benefit of love is feeling focused, creative or motivated to get things done. An increase of dopamine in the brain (due to romantic feelings) can be thanked for these bursts of energy– when you feel like you can accomplish anything.
Love makes us think of the heart. Coincidentally, a loving relationship reduces the chance of heart attacks for both partners. People in a supportive, affectionate relationship are also more likely to survive longer after heart surgery than a single person. Researchers believe this is because love produces positive feelings and reduces blood pressure.
In pain? Consider love instead of an aspirin. Love seems to have the ability to distract us from pain because it activates regions in the brain connected to reward systems. Many of us in long-term, loving relationships cannot imagine going through a surgery or serious health condition without our loved one by our side.
Love may not be the answer to every problem, but there are definitely benefits to loving, supportive relationships.
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