As the Beatles once sang, "All you need is love." When it comes to matters of being healthy and happy, research indicates that this may be truer than we think! On top of making us feel overcome with joy, love can also positively affect our mental and physical well-being. During a month that is devoted to celebrating love in all its many forms, I'd like to explore how the positive emotions associated with love affect our minds and bodies from our heads down to our toes.
The National Institute of Health found that love physically and emotionally benefits us because it triggers the production of oxytocin, our body's natural feel-good hormone that helps contribute to the following -- and perhaps somewhat surprising -- health benefits:
- Love boosts your mental well-being. Couples who are happily in love are less likely to develop emotional disorders such as anxiety. A study conducted by Rutgers University found that participants who simply looked at photos of their loved ones experienced a sudden surge of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that produces feelings of happiness, vitality and an overall sense of calm.
- Love strengthens your immune system. Love makes us feel happy, and a Carnegie Mellon study demonstrates that people who report feeling happy produce more antibodies, which help make us more resistant to viruses. According to the same study, strong bonds between people can even help boost the resiliency of cancer-attacking white blood cells, helping stave off more serious diseases.
- Love is good for your heart. Love doesn't just make your heart go pitter patter, it can also protect it. A study conducted by the State University of New York at Oswego demonstrates that those who frequently engage in physical displays of affection with loved ones enjoy significantly lower blood pressure, which helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. I'd say that's reason enough to reach out and give someone you care about a big hug and kiss!
- Love helps give you radiant skin. The healthy glow associated with love is not just a myth! A University of Zurich study shows that love can help lower our stress levels. As a direct result of feeling more relaxed, our bodies will produce significantly less cortisol, the chemical known as the "stress hormone" that can wreak havoc on our emotions as well as our skin!
- Love can help make you physically fit. A personal favorite love benefit of mine. While many believe that being coupled up can make you gain weight, celebrity trainer Jay Cardiello told Woman's Day that couples who are active together work out 12 to 15 percent harder and yield better results than when exercising alone. It appears that a little loving encouragement -- or competition -- goes a long way!
Hopefully the clear evidence that love is so good for us in so many different ways helps serve as a reminder that we all could benefit from learning to give as well as receive love. So whether it's your significant other, your family, your friends, your pet, your passion, or perhaps even yourself, please make sure you make some room for love in your life this month -- and every month. Your health and happiness will thank you for it.
Judi Sheppard Missett, who turned her love of jazz dance into a worldwide dance exercise phenomenon, founded the Jazzercise dance fitness program in 1969. The workout program, which offers a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, and cardio box movements, has positively affected millions of people worldwide. The international franchise business hosts a network of 7,800 instructors teaching more than 32,000 classes weekly in 32 countries. For more information, visit jazzercise.com.