Wanderlust: Expat Life & Style in Thailand The Relationships Issue - Page 33

Health & Wellness certainly give your physical and mental health a boost .

THE HEART OF THE MATTER
Still get butterflies when she walks in the room ? Great , you ’ re doing your heart a world of good ! The tingling sensation we get in our stomachs when we see our crushes is a physical response to the strong attraction felt when we are in love or falling in love . The reaction causes an increase in heart rate and blood flow to all parts of the body , creating a positive effect both physically and mentally .
And those butterflies are doing so much more than getting your blood pumping . A study at the University of Pittsburgh found that women in good marriages have a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those in high-stress relationships . It works for guys , too , with a Harvard study suggesting that married men who felt loved by their wives experience 50 percent fewer heart issues than those who did not .
Spending quality time with your beau can also help lower your blood pressure and improve heart health ; but this advantage isn ’ t exclusive to lovebirds . Close friends can benefit from quality time as well : A study published in the Journal of Psychology and Aging suggested that people with strong companionship bonds reported higher drops in blood pressure compared to lonelier peers .
What ’ s more , people lacking a lover but who are fulfilled in friendships can also cash in from this next heart helper : hugging . Doctors at the University of North Carolina have found that hugging may dramatically lower blood pressure and boost blood levels of oxytocin , a feel-good hormone that helps reduce the levels of stress chemicals in our systems .
If you ’ re hug-happy , even better . The study found that women who hugged the most each day had the highest oxytocin levels , with a systolic blood pressure 10 mm / Hg lower than women with low oxytocin levels . Admittedly , the women who had the highest levels of oxytocin and subsequently lowest blood pressure had received daily hugs from their husbands , suggesting this comforting embrace is more beneficial when experienced with a romantic partner .
CAN LOVE CURE CANCER ?
Not exactly . But research shows that patients who are diagnosed with cancer recovered from treatment faster when they enjoyed loving partnerships or strong family connections . Scientists could find no medical explanation for this improved recovery time , other than the love and care felt from friends and family .
Some studies have suggested that married couples do fare better than singles when it comes to cancer recovery . Researchers at the University of Iowa found that ovarian cancer patients with healthy relationships and an enduring sense of connection to those around them had stronger cancer-killing white blood cells than those without satisfying bonds .
And it ’ s not just cancer that love can help overrule . Having studied more than a million subjects since the late seventies , The National Longitudinal Mortality Study claims that espoused people suffer fewer heart attacks and were even diagnosed with pneumonia less frequently than the unwed .
It should come as little surprise , then , that partnered-up people have been found to live longer . One possible explanation for this improved longevity is the guardianship experienced by a spouse . No one likes to see someone they love endure ill health , and a partner is likely to discourage unhealthy habits , such as excessive eating , drinking or smoking . With someone watching over your wellbeing and fostering positive behavior , it ’ s natural to assume one would be healthier and consequently live longer than those without a loving partner .
GREAT MINDS
It ’ s not just our physical health that love looks after ; your valentine can help soothe your mind , too . Social psychologist Arthur Aron , PhD has dedicated his career to understanding the science of love and has consistently found that feelings of affection kickstart the brain ’ s dopamine-reward system .
His research shows that this powerful neurotransmitter affects our pleasure and motivation , and the dopamine rush that comes with being in love can trigger improved energy and optimism . Brain scans found that those in long-term relationships also displayed activation in areas associated with bonding , and less activation in the areas that produce anxiety .
In the U . S . alone , an estimated 16.1 million adults were diagnosed with at least one major anxiety or depressive episode in 2015 . This startling figure indicates the importance of looking after our mental health , something that a strong bond with a partner , friend or family member can help to alleviate .
Social isolation has a clear link to higher rates of depression and anxiety . A report by Health and Human Services suggests that getting married and staying married can help to reduce instances of depression in both men and women . Unsurprisingly , treatment of anxiety and depression will often focus on fostering interpersonal relationships , encouraging patients to become involved in loving and supportive relationships to aid their recoveries .
Humans are social creatures . To be deprived of a stable , caring relationship can be detrimental in many ways . So whether you ’ re single or have been married for years , it ’ s essential to make room for a little love in your life — for the sake of your mind , body and soul .
SWEAT TOGETHER , STAY TOGETHER
Studies show that couples who hit the gym in sync are not only more satisfied in their relationship , but more likely to meet their fitness goals . Social psychologists have long believed that the presence of another person during a workout is enough to improve your ability to see it through , helping to improve your energy output without even necessarily being aware how .
An added bonus to the health benefits of co-exercising are the romantic side effects . Sweaty hands ? A racing pulse ? Shortness of breath ? These are all symptoms of an effective workout , but they also mirror the way our bodies react to physiological arousal , and it ’ s easy for us to mistake the two . Pound the pavement with your partner and you might just give your sex life a boost !
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