Love has health benefits, whether it's building loving relationships with others or yourself.
The feeling of love comes from the limbic system in our brain, which affects our behavioral and emotional responses.1 One of the critical parts of the limbic system is the hypothalamus, which controls the production of essential hormones like oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin while regulating hunger, mood and more.2
Both oxytocin and dopamine are feel-good chemicals. Dopamine has to do with our internal reward system. It plays a particular role in pleasure and is part of the attraction portion of love.3 Oxytocin, on the other hand, is released during childbirth and lactation and is a key component in human bonding (think of that warm feeling you get around loved ones).4 Oxytocin can also help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety thanks to its effects in reducing the stress hormone cortisol.5 Additionally, the oxytocin-secreting system is pivotal in immune function by promoting strengthened immune defense.6
So, for health's sake, hug a loved one, snuggle with your pet or spend time around close friends.
The importance of self-love
When talking about love, remember the power of self-love. Self-love is a broad category, including aspects like self-acceptance and self-care.
Self-acceptance, accepting and loving ourselves as we are, is a powerful tool for boosting your sense of self-worth, confidence and contentment while battling feelings of inferiority, fear and doubt. Give yourself the same patience, compassion and empathy you share with your loved ones.
Self-care can take a more physical form as you pay attention to your body's needs. For example, it could be taking time to do something you enjoy, seeking assistance for mental or physical pains or just resting and relaxing.
Here's a reminder to give yourself some love today — it is a great gift for your health.
- Neuroendocrinology Letters. The Neurobiology of Love. Accessed January 25, 2023.
- Queensland Brain Institute. The limbic system. Accessed January 25, 2023.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Dopamine: The pathway to pleasure. Accessed January 25, 2023.
- Cleveland Clinic. Hypothalamus. Accessed January 25, 2023.
- Zeitschrift für Psychosomatische Medizin und Psychotherapie. Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth and healing. Accessed January 25, 2023.
- Frontiers in Immunology. Approaches Mediating Oxytocin Regulation of the Immune System. Accessed January 25, 2023.