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Could Your Summer Romance Actually Be Good For Your Health?

Is it just me, or have there been more weddings and engagements than normal this summer?

In the midst of all the stress and chaos growing around us, it’s refreshing to see that people still fall in love. Maybe I’m an old softy (I did just celebrate my fiftieth birthday this month, so I’m entitled to a little reminiscing), but I say it’s important to have a little romance in your life. Candlelit dinners, dancing by moonlight, walking hand-in-hand…these are the things that make life sweet. Young people seem to find it, whether they want to or not. But I’ll tell you who really needs it. It’s the folks who have been married for more than a few years and have let it fizzle. You know them…they’re the ones who sit in the booth across from you at your favorite restaurant for half an hour, but don’t talk to each other. They need romance…STAT!

It’s too easy to let those things fade as you get older.

So, you’re probably wondering what on earth any of this has to do with health and wellness, or why a chiropractor would be talking about it.

Glad you asked.

More Than A Feeling

There’s no denying the rush of tingles that flows over your body the first time “that special someone” holds your hand. And don’t get me started on the power of the “first kiss.” We often write those feelings off as “hormones,” as if the emotional feelings and biochemical stimulation we experience have no connection to our physical health and well-being. But just like I’ve been saying all along, there are strong linkages between our emotional health and our physical health.

Longer Life

“According to a 2004 study by the CDC, mortality rates were found to be the lowest in married couples,” says Joseph Hullett, MD, psychiatrist and senior medical director for OptumHealth, Behavioral Solutions. There could be several explanations for this, including better dietary choices, but perhaps the best reason is that, generally speaking, people experience less stress when they’re in committed, healthy relationships—and less stress contributes to longevity. Security is one of the five top needs identified by women – the security of knowing that there is someone in their life they can always trust to be there.

Wash Away Tension

A hug from a friend can soothe tension and even lower your blood pressure (also good for longevity). Research has shown that a firm hug can promote the release of the hormone Oxytocin in the blood stream. Oxytocin is primarily known for increasing bonding, social behaviour and closeness between parents, children and couples. Of the major hormones in the body, Oxytocin is most closely associated with trust, whether it’s one-on-one or in a large organization. In fact, studies of the effects of hugs consistently show that the presence or absence of trust between the participants determines whether or not Oxcytocin is released. If you can get a good hug every day from someone you love and trust, you are on your way to a long, peaceful life.

Improved Mental Well-Being

Think the tingles you get from a kiss are all in your head? Well, the biochemical triggers may be activating in your brain, but they are just as real as your increased heart rate. A study from Rutgers University found that when participants looked at photos of people they deeply loved, brains scans indicated increased levels of dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter usually associated with optimism and a sense of well-being. And a study of 1,621 students conducted by Florida State University in 2010, which observed 1,621 college students, found that “people in committed relationships experience significantly fewer mental health problems than single people.” Isolation is closely associated with mental instability. Think about the violent criminals you’ve read about: how many of them were loners? The majority, I suspect.

So, even if it seems that you and your significant other drive each other crazy, in reality, the opposite is true.

A Stronger Immune System

In a published study by Ronald Glazer and Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, several couples were observed during arguments. The researchers found a strong correlation between negative behaviors exhibited during the fight and a mildly suppressed immune system. This aligns with piles of other research that correlates unforgiveness — and all the negative feelings associated with harboring bitterness — with heart disease and cancer.

Less Depression and Substance Abuse

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently reported that getting married and staying married reduces depression in both men and women. Marriage also contributes to a decline in heavy drinking, drug abuse, and other high-risk behaviors, especially among young adults. Some men call it “being domesticated by love,” but really, she may be saving your life, guys.

Just Plain Happy

If you’ve been in a relationship for a long time and the spark has died down, it’s easy to be annoyed by the happiness of couples that are in the “falling in love” stage. Sorry. They can’t help it. A 2005 study in the Journal of Neurophysiology showed MRI brain scans indicating that “early-stage, intense romantic love can activate dompaine releases in certain areas in the brain. These areas are associated with reward, desire, addiction and euphoric states.” The key is to keep that spark alive for as many years as you can.

Feel the Love

We’ve all had relationships that made us feel great and relationships that made us feel terrible. It’s not just in our minds, and we’re not just being emotional. Remember, our minds, bodies, emotions, and relationships are all inextricably linked together. We need to foster healthy relationships and minimize the toxic ones (as far as it is within our power to do so).

Here at Fundamental Health, we consider ourselves “wellness coaches,” and our whole purpose is to help you “Move Right, Eat Right, Think Right, and Live Right.” Join us each week for “Think Right Thursdays,” where we talk about the mental, emotional, and spiritual side of our lives and how it links to our physical health. The purpose of this blog is to share simple lifestyle tips that you can apply immediately and see results in your life, and I believe every article will have something that will help you in a practical way. But even if an article doesn’t apply to you directly, I bet you know someone who could benefit from it, so I hope you’ll take a few seconds to share these with a friend or post them on Facebook.

I’ll look forward to seeing you here Monday for another new “Move Right Monday” video. If you want to learn a simple exercise you can do in five minutes that will improve your posture and relieve back pain, you don’t want to miss it.

“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.”  — Eric Thomas

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