The Benefits of Love
As we celebrate the month of Love, consider all the ways that loving relationships bring meaning, security, contentment, joy, and even health benefits to our lives. We receive tender love from our mother at birth, and from that moment on seek loving relationships and all the positive emotions wrapped around such relationships throughout our lives.
When we engage in loving and nurturing relationships that result in reinforcing positive emotions, we actually increase our levels of oxytocin (a healthy neuropeptide). Studies have shown the emotion of tender love, and consistent exchanges of actions often associated with this emotion like hugging, caressing, and loving touch produce high levels of oxytocin, which induce states of relaxation, low blood pressure and increased feelings of trust. The nurturing act of breastfeeding also produces oxytocin, and so breast milk nourishes the infant while also providing social-emotional reinforcement, feelings of trust and social sensitivity, and yet inhibits separation distress.
Loving relationships can also lead to more joyful play. The saying, “Too much work and not enough play makes Jack a dull boy” now has plenty of scientific support. Joyful play is essential in childhood for building endurance, intellectual resources and increasing creativity. As you mature play also fuels brain development. Yet, joyful play is not just for children. Adults need their own kind of joyful play. Play reinforces the practice of pushing your limits, making you want to achieve your highest potential and crosses over its influence into many areas of your life, including your intellectual, physical and artistic behaviors.
One particularly theory, called Broaden-and-Build, reinforces these benefits of joyful play and contends how they lead to building enduring personal resources. The theory holds that when you play with loved ones or within a positive and supportive community, all the positive emotions begin to interplay and the emotions act as a cause-and-effect chain resulting in a broader personal perspective and more flexible actions. For example, as you feel the joy in play, you push limits and develop interest in new things. You then explore new information and experiences, and expand yourself in the process. Then as you grow from this broader view on life, there is the urge to sit back and savor your surroundings, finding more contentment and feelings of tenderness and love. The theory also suggests a recurring cycle and sustainability of these emotions, thereby becoming a constant, and so as you establish this new norm, there is more desire to regularly play, explore, savor, and love.
As you celebrate the month of love, consider the many ways in which love serves us all and perhaps give an extra hug to that special friend, cuddle with your four-legged pets, laugh and play with children and adults alike, savor kisses with your special someone, and extend extra tender touches to your elderly wisdom keepers. Let LOVE prevail in your life. The benefits for all involved are deep and far reaching.
The information in this post was adapted from excerpts of The Emotional Body book, by Laura Bond. To learn more about the book and the opportunity (available until March 2nd, 2017) to reserve a first edition limited print copy of the book, click here. If you are interested in learning more about Emotional Body workshops, click here.
 Fredrickson, Barbara L (2009). Positivity: Top-notch research reveals the upward spiral that will change your life. Three Rivers Press, NY, pg 94.
 Panksepp, J. (1998). Affective neuroscience: The foundations of human and animal emotions. New York: Oxford University Press
 Sherrod, L.R., & Singer, J.L. (1989). The development of make-believe play. In J. Goldstein (Ed.), Sports, games and play (pp. 1-38). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
 Panksepp, J. (1998). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, psychostimulants, and intolerance of childhood playfulness: A tragedy in the making? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 7, 91-98.
 Fredrickson, B.L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2, 300-319.