Ironically, one of the most anxiety-producing holidays on the American calendar is Valentine's Day. People in relationships feel pressure to spend more than they can afford to purchase a gift for their significant other. There are also pressures to perform certain gestures to prove your love, attached to the fear of getting it wrong.
On the flip side, there are those who are not in romantic relationships at all who struggle with a different kind of anxiety such as lonliness and feeling left out.
Let's remember that although Valentine's Day is generally commercially marketed as a holiday centered around romantic love, it's really a celebration of all types of love. That includes love between parents and children, friends and neighbors. The truth is, every day should be a day of love. Valentine's Day is just a great reminder that we should be more loving to all the people in our lives.
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul mind and strength, and that the second is like it: love our neighbor as ourselves. As I have noticed many times in my work as a health reporter, the admonitions in the Bible are often, thousands of years later, scientifically proven to be good for our health. That certainly applies to love. Here are the top 4 Health Benefits of Love
1. Lowered Stress
2. Lowered Blood Pressure
3. Less Anxiety and Depression
4. Increased Immune Function
The reason love leads to improved health has to do with the hormone oxytocin. According to research from the University of North Carolina, this so-called "feel good" hormone is released when we experience emotions associated with love, not just romantic love but all types of love, even with pets!
Oxytocin acts on the pleasure center of a brain. It's released through touch, like a hug, as well as through emotional intimacy. Believe it or not, many of our pharmaceutical products perform in the same way, as do some of our illicit drugs. They all improve mood and increase pain tolerance.
Living without love is dangerously stressful. In fact, lonliness is one of the greatest stressors. Researchers are increasinly learning about the deadly consequences of stress as it relates to cancer, heart disease and more.
The good news is no matter our circumstances, we can all love. It just takes a bit of effort. The best place to start is by focusing on giving love, not receiving it. You don't even have to spend money.
In case you're not sure what it means to love, here's the biblical definition. In the same way Valentine's Day is incorrectly perceived as only pertaining to romantic couples, this passage, often read at weddings, is often misconstrued as only applying to married people. Not so! It applies to all types of love.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."