As you know far too well, what you eat and how you move your body matters for longevity. But what about Love?
According to the Beatles, “ All we need is Love”, not entirely true, of course, but a loving relationship, loving someone and being loved in return, not only makes you happier, it can help you live longer. All these benefits are especially important during these difficult covid times when loneliness and isolation are high. In our household, there is no shortage of love, and it has been and continues to be, a real lifesaver in this uncertain and ever-changing world. In my quest for a long, healthy and fulfilling life to 100, I have come up with a list of reasons why we should make a conscious effort to focus on love and meaningful relationships rather than disempowering and negative thoughts. So here they are, in no particular order, the ” 10 reasons why love can make you live longer”.
Reason nº1: Love is free.
The world of wellness is a 4.2 trillion dollar industry. From supplements to superfoods, stem cell infusion, detox programs and much more, people are constantly chasing the latest and best habit or miracle product to help them live longer. A very costly pursuit, to be sure. But loving is free, all you need is love in your heart and the willingness to share it and spread it. Scientists call these factors soft health drivers and love is not the only one, gratitude, optimism, kindness, compassion and volunteerism are a few more. They can make everyday living better and add years, if not decades, to your life.
Reason nº2: Love is healthy for us!
These soft health drivers appear to be connected with reducing stress and inflammation, increasing feel-good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin, having positive effects on emotions and supporting your overall brain health.
Meaningful touch, like intimacy from a loving relationship or even non-sexual touch amongst friends, can have positive effects on our immune system, on our nervous system and on our mood. It can lower blood pressure, improve the way we fight illnesses and increase oxytocin which plays a role in social bonding. In fact, the power of touch from a positive relationship and its effect on the body is such that in some cases people have recovered much faster from an illness or an injury. Martha Zaraska, author of the book,” Growing Young: How Friendship, Optimism and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100” says “The truth is, it’s extremely biological and physiological,” and explains that. “We are social apes. We evolved to be living in our tribe and this is how our bodies function the best.”
Reason nº3: Protects the brain!
Love and meaningful relationships have a positive effect on the brain as they tend to slow down mental decline over time. It’s as if it protects your brain, and keeps your memories sharper for longer!
Reason nº 4: Love Reduces stress!
To say that love heals all might be a bit of an overstatement! But from a medical point of view, a strong connection with loved ones protects the body from producing high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And this, in turn, offers protection from various diseases including cardiovascular diseases, heart attack in particular..
Reason nº5: Love helps you cope with work!
As an employee or a business owner, we are all too well aware of the challenges and demands that work has on our daily life. It’s been even tougher during this covid pandemic. Believe it or not, love can help us cope with this area of life too. When you love and you feel loved at home and in your close social circle, you tend to build a solid ground around you, and it’s this place of security and confidence that helps you to endure and/or thrive in your workplace.
Reason nº6: Love Prevents Broken heart syndrome!
I had never heard of Broken heart syndrome until now. This syndrome results from acute emotional stress and can lead to actual heart failure. It is believed that high levels of stress hormones which are released in response to fear, anxiety, loneliness, etc, may trigger the syndrome. Love and meaningful relationships can be a powerful remedy to this Broken heart syndrome.
Reason nº 7: Love helps release oxytocin!
Oxytocin also is known as “ The love hormone” is released after childbirth to build a solid bond between mother and baby. Oxytocin plays a major role during relationships and many other human interactions. This hormone has antidepressant effects, lower cortisol levels and boosts your immune system.
Every time you gaze lovingly into your Dogs or Cats eyes, its levels of oxytocin, also know as the “attachment hormone” — go up. And so do yours. Oxytocin is released when we hug, touch, or look lovingly into someone’s eyes.
Reason nº 8: Love requires training!
If you look at the huge flow of decisions we make on a continuous base, those that are motivated by thoughtful consideration come from our higher mind (frontal lobe), whereas those based on fear and survival instincts come from a more primitive mind (amygdala). When decisions are informed by our higher mind, they are more likely to lead to positive outcomes. Alternatively, decisions driven by survival instincts from the past don’t have such a positive outcome and tend to hold us back.
At any given moment we have the choice of allowing our thoughts and actions to be moved by impulses such as anger, frustration, jealousy, and boredom, or to consciously switch to acting out of love, kindness and compassion. And just as physical health requires exercise, good emotional health requires regular and conscious efforts to focus on more positive emotions. And you will soon notice that by choosing love over any other negative emotion, your body will immediately be filled with a sensation of calm and peace.
Try it! It’s so satisfying and it might even bring a smile to your face! Devoting time to the art of love is a smart investment, as it plays a major role in your own happiness, but also helps you live healthier for longer.
Reason nº9: Love keeps our brain growing!
Louis Cozolino, professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, emphasizes that “Of all the experiences we need to survive and thrive, it is the experience of relating to others that is the most meaningful and important,”. Our brains, Cozolino writes, are social organs, and that means that we are wired to connect with each other and to interact in groups. A life that maximizes social interaction and human-to-human contact is good for the brain at every stage, particularly for the ageing brain. I couldn’t agree more!!
“How we bond and stay attached to others is at the core of our resilience, self-esteem and physical health,” Cozolino writes. “We build the brains of our children through our interaction with them, and we keep our own brains growing and changing throughout life by staying connected to others.”
Reason nº10: Love helps us lead extraordinarily long lives!
Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks! For far too long we have associated ageing with loss and mental decline. Since the human brain is almost endlessly adapting throughout the life cycle and new neurons continue to grow until the end of life, change is as possible for older people as for infants. As we grow older, what may be lost in short-term memory is balanced by an ability to reflect and to hold multiple perspectives and may become more compassionate.
Cozolino’s conviction is that “ People who lead extraordinarily long lives are those who have maintained close ties to others. Centenarians tend to be more extraverted and have higher morale, indicative of reaching out to others, giving and receiving support, and maintaining attachments.”
I totally share this conviction, and as a father (not yet a grandfather) my prime mission in life is to continually enrich my close ties to others. Primarily, to my wife and kids, and extending this circle to family, friends and possibly to strangers as well.
I do believe Love to be the biggest contributing factor to living a happy, healthy and fulfilling life until your 100th birthday! I am not diminishing the importance of what you eat, and how much you move, but ultimately it’s the quality of your close relationships that matter most.
So, more than ever, this is the time to unglue your hands from your mobile phones, refrain from scrolling through Facebook, and take a break from watching your favourite TV series. Instead, reach out to old friends you haven’t spoken to in a while, learn a new hobby with your spouse, engage more with your kids or grandkids because the key to a long and happy life is nurturing the relationships that bring you the most joy!
As a final note, I would like to add one of Cozolino’s practical advice gems for older people. “Those who are grandparents have a clear opportunity to nurture their grandchildren, help that is sorely needed in this day and age. For others, volunteering in various capacities can foster healthy relationships. Not only are such connections good for aging people themselves, but they are also beneficial for society as a whole.
He writes, “Instead of putting our elders out to pasture, we might learn to harness the experience, affection, and time they have to offer.”
Take care my friends, until next week!
Don’t forget to spread the Love.