The Science Behind Why Love Makes Us Happier (and Healthier)

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Valentine’s Day is coming up this weekend, and if you’re thinking about love this week, we’re encouraging you to feel as much of it as you can. Love not only makes you happier, it makes you healthier too, and we’re going to share some of the science why.

  • Reduced stress levels: a study at the University of Chicago showed that people in committed relationships produced decreased stress hormones.
  • Dopamine hits: you may recall Kim Barthel and Theo Fleury discussing this in ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’, but people who are in love produce a “feel good” chemical in the brain, dopamine. Dopamine is linked to the brain’s reward system, and enough of it can be like taking a hit of cocaine for someone.
  • Improved mental health: this editorial shows how people in committed relationships had improved mental health, which makes sense given the brain’s reaction to relationships and love.

“Without enough dopamine, you could feel sluggish, depressed, distractible, unfocused or even uninterested in life.” — Kim Barthel from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’

  • Love is a painkiller? an interesting study out of the United States showed that participants who viewed pictures of their romantic partners experienced less experimental pain.

“Nurturing relationships, like opiates, soothe pain. Oxytocin, the chemistry of love, interacts with opiates the most.

You get a big endorphin hit when you get a hug. Hugs actually make the pain feel better! ” — Kim Barthel from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’

  • Reduced blood pressure: some studies have linked loneliness to high blood pressure, illustrating the physical need for love and relationships.

This excerpt from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’, really sums it up perfectly:

Kim: If oxytocin, the chemistry of love and relationships, is the antidote to stress, and addictions are linked to low levels of oxytocin, then—

Theo: Then all we need is love. I know it’s not that simple, but that’s a big part of the message.

To continue with more conversations like this one, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

— Written Amber Craig

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