It's more than just a sappy tune
Jamie Neely, DC
It's not just an old-fashioned love song. Relationships have the power to nurture our wellness more than any other factor. The added benefit, of course, is that we can literally improve the health of all those involved - including ourselves. Tell the special people in your life that you appreciate them.
It’s not just an old-fashioned love song. Relationships have the power to nurture our wellness more than any other factor and Valentine’s Day gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect on our connections with others.
With the constant stress of busy schedules and financial pressures, the bonds we have with others sometimes suffer. Ironically, it is the people we are closest to who most often feel the effects of our increased stress level. We may find ourselves being a little short-tempered with our partners, children, or friends or we may simply withdraw and isolate ourselves.
Luckily, we set aside a day in February each year that gives us an opportunity to reconnect with those who are close to us. The added benefit, of course, is that we can literally improve the health of all those involved–including ourselves.
People Who Need People
It is impossible to exist without interacting with other people and it’s the quality and quantity of these interactions that play a dominant role in our health. Based on a landmark Pennsylvania study, co-author Stewart Wolf, MD, suggests that emotional health and a sense of community have a greater impact on heart disease than smoking and a diet high in saturated (animal) fat combined.
Dr. Wolf states, “People are nourished by people.” In fact, three ten-year studies concluded that, ?emotional stress was more predictive of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease than smoking; people who were unable to effectively manage their stress had a 40 percent higher death rate than non-stressed individuals.”
Ask anyone about romance, marriage, or friendship and they will tell you there is definitely some work and stress involved in nurturing these relationships. It takes energy to pursue and maintain these special connections. There are inevitable down days for all the up days along the relationship’s path.
Because they provide the drive for growth–the tool that allows us to know more about ourselves–relationships are essential to our life. If living life successfully involves constant growth, then we need to put energy into our relationships or we risk allowing them to “die on the vine.”
More Than a Feeling
Ultimately, a successful relationship involves sharing emotions. How well we manage the ups and downs of our emotions and those of the relationship dynamic is now understood to have the greatest impact on our well-being and, in particular, our heart health.
In nature, animals that adapt to rapidly changing circumstances are those who survive and thrive. Humans are no exception. In our global society, the emotional aspects of our relationships provide the unique tools that allow us to adapt, learn, and grow.
One of these emotional components comes from helping our loved ones perceive stressful events from other points of view. These efforts, which are motivated by our wish to be helpful, may be challenging but serve as a powerful tool for personal growth.
This Valentine’s Day show those you love that it is, indeed, a many- splendoured thing.
February is a great month to kick-start your emotional health. Nurturing that special relationship might be just what the doctor ordered.
Try some of these recommendations to spice things up and help your heart by helping those you love.
Write down a list of seven things that your special someone loves. Think about what they like to talk about, what they think about, what they spend their money on, and what they spend their time doing. If this doesn’t come easily ask–this will show you care enough to find out. Consider this a good exercise in perception skills.
Create a special evening–Valentine’s Day can be just the start–and include as many of your loved one’s favourite things as you can.
If one of those favourite things happens to be beyond your budget, then use your imagination. For example, if your partner has always dreamed of a romantic tropical retreat, create one in your own living room with decorations, food, drinks, and music. Have fun with it.
Recognize that it is wonderful to have differences, and then respect them. Although differences are all too apparent to us sometimes, and may even be a source of contention, it is far healthier–for you and your partner–to recognize that your differences, with the right attitude, do actually complement each other.
Tell the special people in your life that you appreciate them. Studies show that appreciation of others and of ourselves is strongly correlated with health and wellness.
Tell those special people in your life that you care about them. Everyone likes to be liked.
Time Mends a Broken Heart
As though to prove that, indeed, love can hurt, researchers at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, evaluated 19 people who had been admitted to the hospital while suffering chest pain or symptoms related to heart failure after experiencing some emotional stress.
Although their symptoms mimicked those of heart attack patients, researchers found that these “broken heart” patients had no evidence of heart damage or blockages to their arteries. The stress levels of those studied, however, were much higher than those who suffer an actual heart attack, which researchers concluded was the cause of their heart-related symptoms. The good news for “broken heart” patients is that time really does mend a broken heart.
What’s Love Got to Do With It?
Lisa Berman of the Harvard School of Public Health Studies began looking at the social factors that influence heart health in 1975. Her findings have since been confirmed with countless studies that show that hearts beat stronger for people who:
Source: Vegetarian Times, February, 2002
Hold Me, Hug Me, Love Me
Cuddling is now a documented heart-healthy activity. Thirty-eight couples participated in a recent study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who measured blood pressure, stress levels, and plasma oxytocin responses before and after a brief episode of warm contact (they discussed a happy moment together, watched five minutes of a romantic film, and shared a 20-second hug).
The results, reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, showed lower blood pressure and levels of stress hormones and higher levels of oxytocin (levels of oxytocin are found to be higher amongst people who claim to be falling in love). These changes, concluded the researchers, all contribute to heart health.