health love valentine's dayI can’t speak from experience, but the experts agree the infatuation stage of a relationship looks a lot like doing crack, at least in the parts of the brain that affect how we feel.  Our bodies release a hormone cocktail sure to make the head spin.  Oxytocin and dopamine receive most of the credit for those “falling in love” feelings.

So does all the brain activity actually affect the heart?  Researchers say it does.  One study suggests simple interaction with a romantic partner can lower blood pressure.  And a number of studies from several countries have linked healthy social attachment to decreased risk of heart disease and increased life expectancy.  But before all you singles rush off to find your mate and add a few years to your life, let’s look at a few more facts.

What Love Does To Your Health

Eventually the speed rush wears off.  That leaves a few possible outcomes: A blossoming into a supportive and committed love, a crack-like detox, or an unhealthy, harmful relationship.  Those who end up with the latter face the greatest risk of heart problems, weight issues, depression, and weakened immune system.  And for those who split, the process in your brain actually parallels getting burned.

But, ahhhh, for the couples who reach that coveted state of marital bliss.  Well, let me assure you, it doesn’t come easy.  And if you’re young, it might be prudent to wait a bit longer.  Researchers who looked at couples under the age of 26 found a link between marriage and a higher body mass index.  That wouldn’t have anything to do with elevated stress levels would it?  Surely not.

So if you’re looking for love, stop. It’s not hiding from you. You possess the power of choice. You can choose to love or not to love. So hear are some practical ways :

  • For singles, give thanks! You’re free from any obligation. Those of you dying to get married let this sink in: You may never have another time in life when all you have to think about is yourself.  Enjoy it – really.  Be grateful. And do the things you won’t have an opportunity to do when you get married and have kids. Take a trip. Go camping. Visit a friend and make yourself at home. You’ll experience some of the same great health benefits, like less cortisol and strengthened immune support.
  • Pen a love letter.  Rediscover the long lost art of writing.  One study showed writing love letters can reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Hold hands.  Research shows this simple act can significantly reduce anxiety and relieve stress.
  • Give a hug.  Well the research abounds for this one.  A warm embrace lowers cortisol levels and reduces stress.  And women who receive more hugs from their partners have higher levels of oxytocin along with lower blood pressure and heart rates.
  • Hit a workout.  Couples who workout together have a higher rate of success pursuing their goals.  And research has shown they also go more often.
  • For marrieds, ruffle the sheets.  Of course sex creates a flood of oxytocin and endorphins.  And frequent sex can boost immunoglobulin levels by 30%, helping fight off infection.  So if you want to have a year free from sickness, take a multivitamin and jump in the sack with the spouse.

Why are you still reading this? Go, do something good for yourself and for someone else.