Sunset. A park bench. Two lovers ga-ga gazing into each other's eyes. It's enough to make anyone feel a little nauseous to look at for too long—unless of course you happen to be one of those people in love. Those of us who find ourselves without a lover on Valentine's (or any) Day can often meet it with a Scroogy "Bah!" But don't be so quick to scoff at the swooning valentines. Giving and receiving love—whether with a romantic partner, a family member, friends or a furried companion—is actually quite beneficial to our health. Check out these eight incredible benefits of love.
Reduces Stress: Research conducted at Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that love and attachment provide a buffer that can decrease the development of stress.
Stronger Immunity: Research has found that sex can actually boost immune function, but so can just feelings of love, as people in healthy relationships or close friendships tend to take better care of themselves than those who avoid intimacy.
Improved Brain Function: New lovers may not only seem happier and healthier, but they may appear smarter too. Chemicals released over the course of the first few years of a relationship can increase nerve growth and new brain cells.
Heart Health: Spiritually, our hearts feel different when we're in love, and physiologically, they may change as well. Sharing feelings can help to reduce cholesterol levels. And healthy relationships that include lots of laughter will improve vascular function, and of course, so does sex.
Healthy Skin: People in love may appear to be glowing, and it's not just because they're giddy, either. Certain endorphins produced when in love actually increase blood flow to the skin, which improves texture and helps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines as well as giving you that healthy "glow.
Heal Faster: Researchers at the University of Iowa found that ovarian cancer patients in strong relationships had more potent "natural killer" cell activity at the site of their tumors than those who weren't in healthy relationships.
Boosts Confidence: People in healthy relationships tend to be more confident in all areas of their life and less prone to depression. They're often more capable of achieving and maintaining their professional and personal goals.
Longer Life: Dr. Dean Ornish found that being in a healthy, loving relationship increases longevity as much as five times over those who aren't. And it doesn't have to just be with a partner; community service can have the same effects, too.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
Image: See-ming Lee ??? SML