Whether romantic or platonic, love has a positive effect on our mental and physical health. Spending time with loved ones and growing relationships can make you happier, less stressed, less anxious, and more self-aware. As an added bonus, these special bonds can even lengthen your lifespan.
Love makes you happy
When spending time with a loved one, your brain releases dopamine. This feel-good chemical leaves you feeling more upbeat, resilient, and calm.
Love reduces stress
As a relationship—especially a romantic one—develops further, another chemical called oxytocin combines with elevated levels of dopamine to create a bonded feeling. This warm and fuzzy feeling isn’t just good for your relationship; it’s also great for your health.
“When people feel securely attached, their stress levels go down,” says Dr. Helen Riess, director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. If you can’t be with a loved one in person, thinking about them, talking to them on the phone, and even texting with them can help conjure this same bonding experience, Riess says.
Love lessens anxiety
Loneliness isn’t just an emotional burden. It has also been proven to harm physical health. When feelings of insecurity and loneliness come to the surface, cortisol and adrenaline levels rise, triggering your body’s stress response and heightening anxiety. Feeling close to another person can help mitigate these negative feelings and lessen their physical effect.
Love promotes wellbeing
In a study conducted by specialists at Northwestern University and Pennsylvania State University, people in a partnership were able to detect melanoma earlier than those that lived alone. “Couples encourage each other to go to the doctor when they don’t want to,” says Dr. Helen Riess. Not only can your partner push you to have a suspicious spot checked out, but they also tend to recognize various abnormalities more quickly than the sufferer.
Love helps you live longer
The consistent social and emotional support found from strong relationships can make a person’s life long-lasting. Married couples have been found to have lower rates of substance use, lower blood pressure, and less depression than their single peers. But the benefits aren’t just for married couples. A study in 2010 found that longevity benefits were linked to all close social relationships, meaning friends and family are good for your health, too.
While there are many benefits to love, it’s important to remember that boundaries and healthy communication are cornerstones to a truly beneficial relationship. If you and a partner need help navigating life together, consider couples or family counseling with Valley Oaks Health.