Love has powerful human benefits.
What is the single greatest way to have a mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually fulfilling life?
After an astonishing seventy-nine years of studying this question, the most comprehensive research ever done on human lives concluded that it is to love and let yourself be loved.
Love has physical benefits – it's science
Love is a powerful emotion, right up there with feeling free, joyful, grateful, empowered, or appreciative.
Our hearts love love. When humans feel loved, we feel happier and more connected. A study published in The European Heart Journal followed nearly 2,000 Canadians for ten years. It showed this increased happiness was protective against coronary heart disease.
Our brains love love, too. We experience positive feelings in response to neuropeptides like oxytocin, dopamine, and vasopressin that surge with love. Endorphin activity and feelings of attachment increase along with rising levels of happy neurochemicals like dopamine.
The importance of connection
We can see that our minds are content, and our bodies benefit when we feel connected. And, allowing ourselves to use love as our guide in many aspects of our lives is good for us.
When we feel disconnected, it is stressful. Hormones like cortisol and epinephrine are high, and we are low on feel-good hormones like dopamine. This can interfere with sleep and judgment, and we may have trouble thinking straight.
The separation caused by breakup or loss can physically hurt. It can trigger tense and swollen muscles, cravings, sleep issues, and illogical thinking. It's even possible, especially for women, to get cardiomyopathy (A.K.A. sudden, intense chest pain) from the stress, even in the absence of arterial blockages or heart damage.
Love can benefit the planet, and the planet can benefit us
While affection for a romantic partner can feel wonderful, there are ways to care for ourselves after an emotionally stressful event that doesn't depend on having one.
Lucky for us, we can benefit from love - no romance required. Love for the planet, biophilia, can help us feel better and can also result in a more vibrant world.
Those things for which we feel love or appreciation likely bring us joy, and nurturing that relationship is rewarding. For example, when we love ourselves, we take better care of ourselves. Similarly, if we appreciate nature, we will be more likely to care for nature.
Nature lovers have been shown to be more likely to support environmental initiatives, to buy sustainable products, and engage in green activities. A bonus for them? They also experience greater emotional and psychological wellbeing than non-nature lovers.
All forms of love help things thrive
A research paper from the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism concluded pragmatically:
From an evolutionary perspective, romantic love could be considered as a collection of activities associated with the acquisition and retention of emotions needed to survive and reproduce.
In other words, romantic affection has helped humans survive and thrive. But maybe this romantic love is only the tip of the iceberg.
Love is a supportive force. Leading with love can strengthen businesses. Parental love directed at children, attachment to our pets, and appreciation of ourselves and nature enable us to feel love and benefit from it whether we are single, in a relationship, or even broken-hearted.
Ways to connect with the planet
The irony is that there is an epidemic of loneliness in such a connected age. But we can take action to feel more connected. We can choose to put down our phones more often. When we do pick them up, we can call our loved ones.
We know now that giving an experience as a gift makes both the giver and receiver happier. Not only is it eco-friendly to gift experiences, but the creation of the shared memory strengthens our connection. We can consciously nurture our connection to nature by choosing environmentally minded and ethically traded products.
We can immerse ourselves in nature and feel connected to mother earth. We can dig our bare feet into the earth, and standing under the open skies, we can feel our connection to humanity at large. And, since the primary way to learn to appreciate nature is to spend time outdoors in childhood, we can also ensure we give the gift of this feeling of connection to the next generation.
Dana Green Remedios, RHN, RNCP, is a Vancouver-based educator and coach. She is a regular contributor to the FloraHealthy blog and can answer your questions in English, French, and Spanish as a Product Information Specialist at Flora.
- Acevedo, B.P., Aron A., Fisher, H. E, & Brown, L. (2012). Neural correlates of long-term intense romantic love. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 7, 145-159
- L. Frederickson, Barbara. (2013) Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. Hudson Street Pres
- Richardson, Miles, Cormack, Adam, McRobert, Lucy, Underhill, Ralph. (2016). 30 Days Wild: Development and Evaluation of a Large-Scale Nature Engagement Campaign to Improve Well-Being. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0149777
- Seshadri, Krishna G. (2016). The neuroendocrinology of love. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. Jul-Aug; 20(4): 558–563. doi: 10.4103/2230-8210.183479
- Ungar, Michael. Deep Ecology and the Roots of Resilience: The Importance of Setting in Outdoor Experienced-based Programming for At-risk Children. Maritime School of Social Work, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada.
- University of Colorado at Boulder. "Experiences Make People Happier Than Material Goods, Says University of Colorado Prof." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 December 2004.