It is not surprising that love has many benefits.
Not only does it enable social bonding, mating and ultimately, survival of the species, but the hormones and neurotransmitters that are released when we are in the state of love also lower our stress levels, stress hormones, improve our memory, cardiovascular function and many other functions of the body.
Love also does a funny thing to your brain — it stimulates reward centers in your brain that make you believe anything is possible. You become more invincible and interestingly, your body seems to believe in what you believe.
Have you heard of the term placebo response? The placebo response is a term used when scientists study whether or not a procedure or drug works by comparing it to a sham procedure or a sugar pill, and then comparing outcomes.
If a sugar pill works as well as the actual drug, the scientists will attribute it to the placebo response, or the positive expectation of the patient.
For me, I like to use the placebo response as a way to measure how powerful the mind is in getting the body to do amazing things that most believe only drugs or procedures can do.
You see, positive expectation isn’t just about seeing if a drug or a procedure is worthwhile or a sham. Positive expectation has real value in improving health.
This is where love comes in. Love stimulates the same parts of the brain as the placebo response, and induces a very similar physiological state.
Think about a time when you were head over heels in love, or you just got back from an amazing hike in nature, when you felt high as a kite. Didn’t you feel invincible? Like anything was possible?
The problem for most of us lies in the fact that life is quite stressful, and our negative emotions and expectations usually are more prominent than the positive.
Negative expectations and emotions set off the stress response, which triggers more negative emotions, assumptions and behaviors, which often create a vicious circle of negativity.
So really, it behooves you to fall in love more often, and what better month to practice that than Valentine’s month.
Now you don’t have to fall in love with someone to make this work. In fact, love is a physiological state that causes the love hormone, oxytocin, to be produced, along with neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
You can tap into the state of love in many ways, including using your imagination to focus on the experience of being loved by someone you love, by the Universe, an imaginary being or by nature. If you can’t do it on your own, listen to a CD with a loving guided relaxation.
You can contemplate an experience of awe — a beautiful sunset, the smell of summer rain, or the look on someone’s face when you surprised them with a random act of kindness. Pay attention to what happens to your mind, your breath and the way you feel. You’ll notice the difference immediately.
You can practice random acts of kindness or practice daily gratitude, spend time with your pet, or do what I do, and borrow a pet to love, who will gladly love you back.
Spend time in nature, and remember how lucky you are to be a part of this beautiful planet.
Feel lucky, and you will experience the Love Response.
You might then find that when you are filled with so much love, you can handle pretty much anything, as you feel less threatened by life circumstances or by others’ actions, and can find meaning in almost anything.
Try it. You just might love it.