Toddler-sized teddy bears, chalky-tasting conversation hearts, a stress-inducing color palette: There are a lot of things we love to hate about Valentine’s Day. But, at its core, V-Day is not a holiday about roses, or even romance. It’s about love. And there’s a lot to love about love—especially when it comes to your mental and physical health.
According to a growing body of scientific research, love boasts some exciting health benefits. So, in honor of Valentine’s day, we’re examining the ways in which loving relationships (and not just romantic ones, either) can help your mind and body. Read on for four reasons to share the love this February—and beyond:
1. Love pushes you to take better care of yourself.
It may seem obvious, but having a loving partner pushes you to take better care of your health.
Because there’s a lot of denial surrounding medical illness, single individuals may be more likely to shrug off their symptoms. Loving partners encourage each other to go to the doctor—even when they don’t want to. Moreover, couples can often tell if their significant other is suffering from a health problem before their S.O. does.
The data backs this up, too. Studies show that people who are paired off may be able to detect melanoma earlier than singles since their partners tend to notice suspicious moles right away.
Beyond helping you spot serious health conditions, your romantic partner may help you change your unhealthy habits. According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, both men and women were around 40% more likely to increase the amount of exercise they got when their partner did. The same findings applied to smokers: People were also about 40% more likely to ditch cigarettes when their partner quit as well. Now that’s what we call teamwork.
2. Love can lower your blood pressure.
It should come as no surprise that being close to your loved one can make you feel calmer, safer, and more secure. But did you know that loving feelings can have physical effects, too, such as improving cardiovascular health?
According to a recent report published by the University of Arizona, the effects of love are so powerful that simply visualizing your loved one may help lower your blood pressure.
The study discovered that—when it comes to your body’s cardiovascular response to stressful situations—thinking about your significant other can keep your blood pressure under control just as effectively as having them in the room with you. Guess it really is the thought that counts!
3. Love can boost self-esteem and mental well-being.
According to research from Tallinn University, women in happy, healthy relationships tend to have a more positive body image.
For the study, researchers interviewed 256 women between the ages of 20 and 45. They inquired about a series of topics, including their relationship status, happiness within the relationship, weight, diet, self-consciousness, body image, and self-esteem.
The conclusion? Being in a loving relationship really does impact your self-esteem. No matter how close a woman was to her target weight, being a part of a self-reported satisfying relationship was linked to having a higher self-image.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that this study was correlational—it didn’t prove cause and effect. But it makes sense that having a loving partner might make you feel good about yourself, right?
4. Loving relationships may help you live longer.
There’s a whole slew of research showing that married people are likely to live longer, giving new meaning to the phrase “’til death do us part.”
According to a 2011 study conducted by Cardiff University, wedded folks had a 10-15% lower risk of premature death compared to individuals. What’s more, married couples tend to have lower rates of substance abuse and less depression than their single peers.
Research suggests that these longevity benefits are not from marriage itself, but rather from having consistent, loving social and emotional support. In 2010, a review of 148 studies showed that longer lifespans were linked to ALL close social relationships—not just romantic ones. That means the love you experience from your friends and families is good for your health, too.