How Does Love Affect Our Physical Health?

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we share how love can affect our physical, emotional, and mental health in different ways.

Valentine’s Day is here. A day for publicly displaying your love and affection for that special someone in your life. From a special dinner to a surprise flower delivery or extra hand holding, this day can hold significant meaning for your romantic relationship and boost your feelings of love, no matter how long you and your special someone have been together.

Love affects our health in so many ways. It contributes to both short-term and long-term happiness, and the euphoric feelings and power of love can improve physical, emotional, and mental health.

Love Affects Us Physically

Love can give us a physical reaction. A quickened heart rate, butterflies in our stomachs, dilated pupils, sweaty palms, a hard time finding words, the instinctive urge to physically touch are just a few ways in which love can physically affect us. 

Sex as a physical act of love can reap many benefits. It can lower blood pressure, increase bladder control for women, reduce stress, improve sleep, and boost the immune system. These positive physical effects from sex can spill over into many other aspects of life, from parenting to work to friendships and beyond. 

A stable and healthy physical relationship with another person boosts emotional and mental wellbeing as well.

Love Promotes Emotional and Mental Wellbeing

Many studies have shown that a healthy and supportive relationship—be it romantic, familial, friendship, or otherwise—can be linked to higher self-esteem, increased sense of self-worth, and improved self-confidence. Love, no matter what form it comes in, helps people incorporate safer behaviors into their everyday lives, reduces anxiety (worry, nervousness), and lowers the chance of developing depression or another form of mental illness.

Love Changes Your Brain Chemistry

Love changes your brain chemistry temporarily. Those butterflies fluttering in your stomach can be contributed to brain chemicals. The exciting feeling of your heart skipping a beat or leaping out of your chest can also be attributed to a release in brain chemicals. Several brain chemicals and hormones can be attributed to love, but two specifically stand out: dopamine and oxytocin. 

Dopamine is a brain chemical that releases when you see or feel something pleasurable. It makes you want more of it. Dopamine is what can make love and your significant other seem addicting. It is the same brain chemical that perpetuates additions like gambling, substance abuse, etc. When meeting a new special someone you may feel like you are on a high and want more and more of that person.

Oxytocin, a hormone that calms and helps couples bond, helps promote intimacy between two people. It’s also referred to as the “cuddle hormone.” This hormone is also released when playing with or petting your dog.

Often times these changes in brain chemistry and hormones are only temporary. Once the new special someone in your life becomes the new normal, we adjust back to our normal brain chemistry.

Falling Out of Love Hurts

When someone we love hurts us or is no longer part of our lives for one reason or another, our health can take a hit. Physical and emotional feelings use the same pain centers and our brain uses the same neurological pathways to feel those feelings.

You may have heard of broken heart syndrome, but you may not realize it is a real medical condition that can negatively affect your physical, emotional, and mental health. Broken heart syndrome is also referred to as stress-induced cardiomyopathy, in which the heart temporarily enlarges ― a serious and sometimes fatal condition. The condition can occur when going through a breakup or divorce, grieving for a seriously injured or departed loved one, or during a time of extreme stress. It’s speculated that broken heart syndrome is the cause when loved ones die within a short time of one another, such as spouses dying hours or days a part ― or more recently, actress Debbie Reynolds passing away just a day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher.

Good News: Your Heart Can Rebound

Love is the greatest and most complex human emotion. While everyone experiences love differently, everyone has the capacity regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. Love comes in many different forms and manifests in many ways throughout your life and relationships. After you have been profoundly hurt by someone you love or lose someone you love, it can seem insurmountable to recover, move on to the next phase of your life, and find happiness and love again. 

With time, soul searching, self-discovery, and being open to new experiences, you are likely to experience the fluttering butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, and dopamine high that comes with finding new love.

From all of us at Canopy Health, Happy Valentine’s Day. We hope you enjoy the day with your special someone or other loved ones that make you feel good physically, emotionally, and mentally.