All that is worth cherishing in this world, begins in the heart (author unknown)
Love is the most powerful, yet most under utilised gift we have in our possession, a gift that can change our health and life. For many people, self-love may be the greatest and most important love they ever experience. The mere mention of love conjures up wonderful emotions and for centuries, artists have examined love through theatre, poetry, painting and music. In recent years, scientists, supported by The National Institute of Health have begun to research and understand the chemistry and biology of love and the impact it has on our health – mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually and physically.
Is there any emotion more complex and abstract than love? In previous Ridiculously Simple Steps To Transform Your Health (and Life) we have discussed many of the gifts of life that cannot be bought or sold, not for all the money in the world, but perhaps love is the most precious of them all. We cannot bribe, coerce or demand it from anyone, it really must come from the deepest recesses of the heart. Most people know the feelings of love and warmth and friendship and experience a richer life because of it, but little is mentioned of the actual effect it has on our health and wellbeing.
Love is a verb. When I was a child at school, we were told verbs were “doing” words and certainly love is not just a feeling, it is an action – a doing word! Love wasn’t put in our hearts to stay, love isn’t love ‘til we give it away. No amount of loving words can take the place of action. Love must be the only commodity in this world that grows, simply by sharing and giving it away, and yet sometimes we hold so tightly to it! In his book The Road Less Travelled, Scott M Peck speaks about the desire to love as not actually being love at all unless this intention is followed by an action. Our longevity in love is decided by our loving actions! It has been said that there is no better exercise for the heart than to lovingly reach down to lift another up. This may mean giving of our time to put love into action.
We have different levels of consciousness and love exists at a very deep level. The experiences of life gradually add protective layers over events that are and have been painful and sometimes our ability to give and receive love is compromised as a result of this. In his book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, Deepak Chopra explains “deep within these layers is where our most entrenched feelings are stored and it is from here that our ability to love and be loved arises – where the deepest human values are known. Without such knowledge–not just of love, but of beauty, compassion, trust, strength, and truth–these words would be meaningless. To love and be loved is an essential part of life. We recognize it because it vibrates in us, far below the conscious level. Being able to live from this level can bring about complete fulfilment but this only happens as we resolve layers of conflict and contradictions that constitute our resistance.”
The power of love to change people is legendary, built into folklore and often recounted through everyday experience. Throughout history, “tender loving care” has often been recognized as a valuable element in healing. There have been recent scientific developments into ways to measure the health benefits of loving interactions. These have been observed in epidemiological studies in humans (collecting and analysing data on different groups of people), however, full epidemiological studies are expensive and laborious and before any study is started, a case must be made for the importance of the research and while we know love is so important in the development of both human and animal babies, often the value of love towards our ageing population has been overlooked. We know that love and health go hand in hand with a bond that ties them together and that emotions have a huge effect on our general health and wellbeing. Our very cells respond either positively or negatively depending on the hormone that has been released because of our thoughts and emotions.
A recent scientific study (the study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry) has proved that when we are happy and in love we heal faster! Further – those in love can deal better with pain and stress. Love has a calming effect on the body. There may be times in our life when we do not have that special person in our lives, however this does not exclude us from developing loving feelings and actions and having them returned. Love includes the whole of humankind. Researchers can’t say for sure that romance trumps an affectionate family or warm friendships when it comes to our health, but it does seem that kinship and caring and sharing in love boosts our immune system and make us stronger. It may even make us live longer!
As you consider this weeks Ridiculously Simple Steps To Transform Your Health (and Life) remember, we may not yet fully understand how love and affection develops between people, or how love affects our health, but we do know that friendships, family and love partnerships are precious and beautiful and we need to spend time and effort to protect them.
Your comments and suggestions are invited on this blog post.