Spring is in the air a time of hope and joy and opening our hearts to love.
Love doesn't just make us feel better, but actually reduces stress in a measurable way!
A study published this past December demonstrated that love has a buffering effect on the nervous system and that people in love have a lower stress response compared to those who are not "in love'. Stress response results in increased heart rate, blood pressure and quickened respiration. The study measured respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) to emotionally neutral, negative and positive films. Comparison of the RSA among singles & new lovers (within 2.5 months of a new relationship) demonstrated considerable differences. While singles watching emotionally negative films showed a marked decrease in RSA, no such decrease was seen in new lovers, demonstrating optimal vagal regulation during the period of falling in love.
Nearly half the women in the US report problems in the bedroom.
Another article by a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School explores the importance of positive emotions that involve human connectedness, and their role in stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. One of the important neurochemical factors involved in the bonding process is oxytocin, which not only mediates a connection between an infant and mother during breast feeding or two lovers during orgasm, but also reduces cortisol levels and blood pressure and promotes growth and healing. This is an area of growing research as one of the primary mechanisms underlying the observed reduction in stress associated with love.
Whether or not Cupid struck you with his arrow this Valentine's Day, the many benefits of love, kindness and relationships give reminder to celebrate those we care for throughout the year and indicate that in addition to a healthy balanced diet, regular exercise and applicable medications or supplements we may want to prescribe a hug or two.
Natural Health Magazine
Schneiderman, et. al. Love alters autonomic reactivity to emotions. Emotion. 2011 Dec; 11 (6): 1314-21
Vaillant GE. The neuroendocrine system and stress, emotions, thougts and feelings. Mens Sana Monog. 2011 Jan;9(1):113-28.
Uvnas Moberg K. The Oxytocin Factor. Cambridge, MA: DeCapo Press; 2003.
Magon N, Kalra S. The orgasmic history of oxytocin: Love, lust and labor. Indian J Endocrin Metab. 2011 Sept; 15(3):S156-S161.