Romance Gives More Than You Expect
St. Valentine’s Day is almost here. Millions of men will drop what they’re doing to order flowers and candy for their special someone. Countless couples will share a romantic dinner — either at home or in a favorite restaurant. And most of them will enjoy an unexpected boost to their health.
New romance makes you feel giddy and wonderful. Time–tested love provides a sense of comfort and stability. And both, it turns out, can contribute to better health. At least, as long as you’re willing to “get mushy.”
Take holding hands, for example. Teenagers do it. Young couples do it. You’ll even spot folks who’ve been married for decades strolling hand–in–hand. It’s one of our most basic ways of — quite literally — staying in touch.
But when you hold their hand, you’re doing something else. You’re helping lower your partner’s stress.
Psychologists led volunteers — all married women — to expect an uncomfortable electric shock. Then they measured the women’s responses.
Their stress responses were highest when no one held their hand. When a stranger held their hand while expecting the shock, their stress levels dropped. When the husbands held their hand, their stress levels were even lower.
But the biggest drop in stress came when the handholding was between a couple in a strong, loving relationship.1
Kissing has a similar effect. But it offers other benefits besides.
In 2009, scientists split several couples into two groups. One group was asked to increase the amount of romantic kissing they did. The other group made no changes.
After six weeks, the kissing couples showed a drop in stress and felt more satisfied with their relationships. Blood tests also revealed that their total cholesterol had dropped.2 Just from kissing more!
That’s pretty good news just for being a little more romantic. But if you decide to start being a lot more romantic this Valentine’s Day, they payoff could be even bigger.
Researchers at Wilkes University discovered that making love can boost your immune system. In their study, they found that making love once or twice per week resulted in a jump of up to 30% in certain immune cells.3
Your levels of another chemical go up when you’re sexually aroused. It’s a hormone called oxytocin.
Oxytocin has several jobs — including stimulating the pleasure and reward centers in your brain. But it has other effects, too.
For example, Russian scientists discovered oxytocin lowers sensitivity to pain. And it takes very little to have an effect. In one experiment, just a tiny amount of oxytocin promoted a drop of more than 50%.4
In another study, a Swiss team showed that higher levels of oxytocin promote lower levels of cortisol — the stress hormone. That’s probably why higher levels of oxytocin also promote better sleep.5
And research shows your oxytocin levels go up the most after you experience an orgasm.
So, by all means, get romantic this Valentine’s Day. Send the flowers; enjoy a romantic dinner. But for a real health boost, share a little affection every day.