Friday, January 24, 2014

Love and Health

With all the talk about health care and health care insurance in the news, we should add to the discussion the role love relationships play in health and disease. There is growing scientific evidence to back up the claim that love is good for your emotional and physical well-being.  And there is growing scientific evidence that some of the things we pass off as love are bad for your health, too.

According to C. Norman Shealy, M.D. and Caroline Myss, Ph.D., love of others and being loved are key factors in improving the immune system, adding to life expectancy and creating overall happiness.  Their research shows that even bad habits like overeating and smoking have less of an impact on those who have loving support systems.11

A research project conducted by James House at the University of Michigan Research Center clearly demonstrated that doing good deeds pays off.  Those people who did volunteer work on a regular basis and who interacted with others in a caring and compassionate manner, dramatically increased life expectancy, and overall vitality.

At Harvard University, a well known experiment conducted by psychologist David McClelland found an increase in an anti-body that helps ward off respiratory infections, immunoglobulin-A (IGA), can be generated simply by watching a film of Mother Teresa working amongst India’s sick and impoverished.  

People “in love” have fewer colds.  The unconditional love that pet owners receive from their animals helps lessen depression.  In one study of Israeli men, high cholesterol and high blood pressure were less important to health than the quality of love in their marriages. Individuals who have close intimacy with others have higher IGA antibodies and less serious illness. Children whose parents love them unconditionally thrive, have good esteem and more zest for life.

Emotional health is improved as well.  Studies have shown over and over again that caring about others induces feelings of warmth, calm, and happiness, which significantly reduces depression.  In fact, a study by Allan Luks found that 90 percent of a group of volunteers reported a “high” from their experience.

Love is the most cost-effective medical insurance policy and the cheapest medicine there is.  And there is no end to its supply.  In fact, the more love you put out, the more it generates.  And it attracts love to itself.  It generates joy, happiness, serenity, esteem, vibrancy, kindness, appreciation, respect, laughter, generosity, tolerance, tenderness, open-mindedness, respect, care, affection, goodness, service, appreciation, compassion, awe, wonder, bliss, trust… all of which have been proven scientifically to be good for your health.

It takes only one conscious act of love to get the healing juices of love flowing.  And it does not even matter if the other person is conscious of your conscious act.  All that matters is the willingness to put love out there.  So do it!

(11. Lama Surya Das, Awakening the Buddha Within, 225.)

This is an excerpt from Love's Way by Dr. Brenda Schaeffer