When we speak about love, we don’t just mean romantic love between intimate partners. Love can be shared with friends, love can mean affection toward others in a platonic way, and we can also practice self-love. Love means to feel and experience a sense of care, connection, and commitment towards another. From a scientific lens, love is a powerful chemical and neurological condition – and therefore not something you can necessarily control.
According to the ancient Greeks, there are eight types of love, namely:
- Eros (sexual passion)
- Philia (deep friendship)
- Ludus (playful love, flirting)
- Agape (love for everyone, unconditional love)
- Pragma (longstanding, committed love)
- Philautia (love of the self, self-love)
- Storge (family love, natural affection)
- Mania (obsessive love)
Which of these types of love do you practice daily?
Being in love, or experiencing love, has an impact on both our brains and our bodies. We all know that being in love can feel amazing, but according to science, love can actually be beneficial to your overall health. Let’s investigate some benefits and symptoms of love further:
- People in loving relationships have a lower death rate compared to their single friends. (Luckily – this can count for close friendships too!)
- Higher self-esteem, which in turn lowers risk of depression
- Reduction in anxiety
- Lower risk of heart disease or death by heart attack – “One theory explains this finding by citing improved function of the autonomic nervous system, which controls bodily functions like heart rate, in people who are married or in love,” – Dr. Kilical
- Lower stress levels
- Improved mood
- Lower risk of diabetes
- Lower blood pressure, cortisol, and adrenalin
- Improved immune system
- Quicker recovery from illness
- Pain relief
When we think of love, the heart is usually the first thing that comes to mind. But the brain is actually equally, or more, important in the feelings of love we experience. Being in love produces two main chemicals or endorphins. Oxytocin (the “bonding hormone”) is produced when you first meet someone you are interested in, giving us that well known ‘fluttery’ feeling. Oxytocin continues to feature in a loving relationship to strengthen bonds and feelings of attachment, safety, and trust. Dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of euphoria, also fires up when we experience love.
We are social creatures, so we function best when we have strong social support systems. This doesn’t have to mean a typical marriage or intimate relationship – the benefits of love can also be reaped from close positive relationships with friends or family. This can be practiced with something as simple as a hug. Research suggests that “four hugs per day was an antidote for depression, eight hugs per day would achieve mental stability and twelve hugs per day would achieve real psychological growth.” Hugs are also documented as correlating with decreased experiences of illness.
Zita Oravecz, assistant professor of human development and family studies says:
“Everyday ‘felt love’ is conceptually much broader than romantic love, it’s those micromoments in your life when you experience resonance with someone. For example, if you’re talking to a neighbour and they express concern for your well‑being, then you might resonate with that and experience it as a feeling of love, and that might improve your well‑being.”
So, take the time to invest in daily hugs, love, and friendship. It costs you nothing, but can have a priceless benefit on your health and wellbeing.
Read More Here:
Gulla, E. 2020. 8 Different Types of Love Explained. Available: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/love-sex/relationships/a34896557/types-of-love/
Marion, J. 2014. Ask the Expert: All You Need is Love. Available: https://www.baltimoremagazine.com/section/health/how-does-love-affect-your-well-being/
Kendra, C. 2022. What is Love? Available: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-love-2795343
Raypole, C. 2020. 15 Ways Love Affects Your Brain and Body. Available: https://www.healthline.com/health/relationships/effects-of-love
Dr Kilical, B. 2020. LOVE, RELATIONSHIPS AND HEALTH: THE SURPRISING BENEFITS OF BEING IN LOVE. Available: https://living.aahs.org/heart-vascular/love-relationships-and-health-the-surprising-benefits-of-being-in-love/
Ducharme, J. 2018. 5 Ways Love is Good For Your Health. Available: https://time.com/5136409/health-benefits-love/
Penn State. 2019. Feeling loved in everyday life linked with improved well-being. Available: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191125121005.htm
Hicks, J. No date. 8 Surprising Facts About Love and Well-Being. Available: https://www.happify.com/hd/8-surprising-facts-about-love-well-being/
Mooney, A. 1995. Four hugs a day using therapeutic touch. Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8695945