We all know love is associated with the heart, but when you really think about it, love is something you feel with your whole self – from your brain right down to the tingle in your toes!
Love makes you feel good and losing it can make you feel incredibly bad. So what’s the science surrounding love’s effect on the body?
A Natural Pain Killer
A 2010 Stanford University School of Medicine Study concluded that being in an intense love relationship can activate the same areas of the brain that painkillers do. Not everyone can throw away their pain medication and hurl themselves into a passionate love affair, but if you find yourself in an exciting, new relationship, your knee pain might start feeling a little less intense.
It Messes With Your Brain…in a Good Way
We’ve all heard the term “addicted to love”. Turns out there are a multitude of natural chemicals that are released when we fall in love and affect the way we feel and behave. Dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline and vasopressin are all released during various stages of love and see us through the relationship. From the initial attraction to thinking about them every hour of the day (you produce less serotonin and mimic obsessive-compulsive disorder behaviours), to feelings of elation and giddiness, to reducing stress (goodbye headaches!), the rush of chemical release can make our feelings more intense but also make us feel more alive, too.
The Effect on the Love Organ, the Heart
Your heart might beat faster when you’re in love but don’t worry, chances are you’re not headed for a heart attack. Being with the person you love instills a sense of calm, which in turn lowers blood pressure. And if one of you does suffer from a cardiac issue, you will recover faster if you’re in a loving relationship. Experts say that married people bounce back faster from a heart attack than singles do.
In Chinese medicine, the heart is seen as the ruler of all the other organs. When the heart is happy, then the rest follow. The emotion that is associated with the heart is joy. When we engage in activities that bring us joy, the heart stays healthy. When joy is missing from our lives, we can have trouble sleeping, be forgetful and have difficulties concentrating.
Doing little things that bring us joy every day can help us stay on track to a satisfying and fulfilling life. How do we keep the joy coming? Live with wisdom and purpose, seek truth and develop meaningful connections to yourself, others and the planet.
Broken Heart Syndrome is Real
On the flip side, experiencing a broken heart can definitely have an adverse effect on your health. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome, can be a very dangerous condition and in some cases, even fatal. It seems that a painful breakup can cause the heart to suddenly enlarge and not pump effectively.
It can take weeks or up to a few months for the condition to resolve itself after the stress has leveled out. So if you’re heartbroken this Valentine’s Day, be kind to yourself and try to ease your stress. Being loving towards yourself and towards others might just give your heart the healing it needs, with the added bonus of simultaneously offering another soul feelings of joy.
Being in a loving friendship, relationship or marriage has a lot of benefits not only emotionally but physically as well. Giving and receiving all kinds of love can help us live long, healthy lives and is well worth taking the plunge.