Have you ever had butterflies in your stomach after hearing your partner say “I love you” or experienced queasiness during a breakup? You know for a fact that emotions have power over your physical well-being. Studies have confirmed that feelings generated by social and romantic relationships directly influence one’s short and long-term health.
“What you feel has a big effect on your immune system,” says Dr. John Arden, Director of Training for Mental Health in Northern California for Kaiser Permanente. Here are a few common emotional moments that have a huge impact on your body.
Receiving a hug: Receiving a hug makes one feel calm, peaceful by reducing anxiety. The long term effect of receiving a hug improves memory and sleep. During acts of affection, oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone” is released. This hormone plays an important role during childbirth as it helps create a bond between the mother and the baby.
Hearing “I love you”: Hearing your partner or someone close to you say “I love you” makes you feel energized and ecstatic, while your blood pressure rises. Neurologically, hearing those three little words release dopamine, the “reward” chemical in one’s brain that is responsible for pleasure. Basically, the exhilaration is actually your mind responding to the reward of love.
Laughing at a joke: When you laugh at a joke, your blood pressure rises, pulse rate and stress levels decrease making you feel a greater resistance to pain. Multiple chemicals are involved in laughter such as endorphins, serotonin and insulin that act as antidepressants and anxiety reducers.Losing a loved one: When you lose a loved one, along with grief, frequently comes anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, a compromised immune system, an increased pulse rate and advanced aging. Sorrow releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that can harm the body.
Meeting someone new: When you meet someone new, your brain becomes focused and revitalized. Being exposed to novel situations can improve your memory and help keep dementia at bay. Meeting someone new opens up a sea of possibilities and uncertainties, and if you find that person attractive,
there is a burst of dopamine especially if the interaction includes smiling.
Arguing or fighting with a loved one: When you fight or argue with a loved one, your pulse rate and breathing increases, your blood vessels and pupils dilate. Studies have shown that if you fight and argue frequently, you put yourself at risk for cardiovascular diseases. Arguments and fights stir up a reaction that releases stress chemicals such as cortisol, adrenalin and norepinephrine which is bad for your long term well-being.
A relationship break-up: When you have a break up in a relationship, your heart rate slows down. In the weeks that follow, you may experience muscle aches, gastrointestinal issues and a weakened immune system. Love is like a drug addiction, your body is used to the dopamine and oxytocin rushes of romance and when this disappears, only severe cravings are left. These usually disappear over time and can be controlled by social events and exercise which promote the release of endorphins and dopamine.