As human beings, we’re constantly searching for happiness. So, how exactly do we attain it?
An 80-year Harvard study provides some insight into the main driver of happiness: the formation, and maintenance, of significant relationships.
“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the study, and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
According to the Harvard Gazette, the study found a direct correlation between relationship satisfaction and health, with the former providing resilience to life’s hardships, as well as helping to prevent mental decline and physical ailments. Additional studies have found that relationship satisfaction was a better indicator and predictor of physical health than cholesterol levels were.
The benefits are not only limited to physical health either. The study also found that relationship satisfaction has a positive impact on one’s mental health. Individuals with strong and healthy relationships also lived longer and happier lives. It is important to note though that this is not limited to romantic relationships. A strong sense of community, having close relationships with friends, children, family, and colleagues, was just as much an influencer and predictor of happiness, health and longevity as those close bonds that existed in a romantic relationship.
How does love affect your brain?
That feeling of euphoria you feel when you’re in love with someone (particularly in the early stages of love) is due to the brain’s release of a chemical called dopamine. In addition, being in love increases blood flow to the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s pleasure center. The more time you spend in love, the more the body develops a tolerance for these chemical secretions, transforming the attraction phase of a relationship into the attachment phase, where the hormone oxytocin (known as the bonding hormone) plays an important role in creating a feeling of connection. This hormone is also released when a woman gives birth and helps the mother to bond with her baby. This hormone also serves to create feelings of security and well-being.
How does love affect your health?
The positive effects of love are not limited to your brain, as we have seen by the findings of the Harvard Study. Here are some additional benefits of love (as a consequence of meaningful relationships) in your life:
- It can lower your blood pressure – love creates a feeling of serenity and peacefulness
- It can help ease chronic pain – feelings of love affect the same parts of the brain that painkillers do
- It helps you live longer – studies have shown that the more positive, loving relationships you have in your life, the more likely you are to live longer in comparison to those that don’t have nurturing and fulfilling relationships
Now that you know how much of a positive impact love has on your life, your brain, and your health, try to focus more energy on nurturing those relationships that matter to you. You’ll live longer, and will most likely influence the health and happiness of those around you!