There are limitless analogies that can apply to being in a relationship. It might seem as if you’re walking on air one second, have a stomach butterflies the next, and then feel like your heart was dropped in a blender – all in the span of a few minutes. Love is like sensory overload for the mind.
With all this in mind, it’s probably not surprising that most scientific studies show that being in a healthy relationship is not only good for your mind, but for other aspects of health as well. People in long-term healthy relationships tend to live better lives. Here’s how:
1. Fewer mental problems
Yes, we all have times when a partner drives us crazy. Luckily, it’s not literally (hopefully not, anyway). Florida State University found that people in committed relationships experience fewer mental health problems than single people. And the trend continues past college, from a study done by the American Journal of Sociology. Singles tend to have higher levels of depression, anxiety, mood disorders, adjustment problems, suicidal behavior, and other types of distress.
2. Pain Relief
Not unlike the meeting between Ben Affleck’s and Kate Beckinsale’s characters in “Pearl Harbor,” journal PLUS ONE found that true love can, in fact, help numb pain. Subjects had heat blocks attached to their hands and were shown pictures of their significant other and a stranger. Upon seeing the pictures of their loved one, they were not only distracted from the pain, but there was also an increase in activity in the reward-processing regions of the brain and a decrease in the pain-processing regions. Pain levels reduced 44% on average!
3. Less Stress
Healthy relationships result in less stress. Makes sense, right? Science can back it up, too. University of Chicago and Northwestern University researchers found that relationship status affects the production of stress hormones. Plus, having a partner who knows how you tick can help in effectively dealing with stress.
4. Live Longer
A variety of studies have found that unmarried adults have a higher probability of early death than unmarried adults – and this shows up in studies done in America, Britain, Sweden, and the Netherlands. While it’s not exactly clear why this is, observational data supports the idea that married people (even if now divorced) have a supportive social network and children that stimulate continuing familial contact.
When we look at someone with whom we’re truly/madly/deeply in love, certain parts of the brain engage. Romantic love seems to stimulate dopamine-rich areas of the brain – and to be clear, these are different regions of the brain than of those engaged when just sexually aroused.
Love can make people not only act different, but think different as well. Luckily, it’s usually for the better.