• Y.O.G.A. Blog ~ Body, Mind, Spirit!

  • Love!

    February 4, 2015
  • All you need is love. ~ The Beatles

    There is only love. ~ Mike Dooley, Infinite Possibilities

    Love has inspired poets and philosophers throughout the ages. Perhaps you have even penned a love letter or two in your life or received one.

    Love. What does it mean to you? Do you love your parents? Siblings? Pets? A significant other or partner? Your child? Where you live? Your job? Your dog or cat? Sushi? How about yourself?

    So what exactly is love? It really defies a nice, tidy definition. There are so many different types of love – romantic love, passionate love, friendly love, brother/sisterly love, parent/child love, pet love, material love, and what about divine unconditional love?

    When we are connected to another person (or pet) and we feel valued, respected and a sense of truly belonging, this experience of ‘love’ has many health benefits. According to an article by Sherry Rauh in WebMD Health News, Harry Reis, PhD, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships sites these 10 research-backed ways that love and health are linked:

    1. Fewer Doctor's Visits - The Health and Human Services Department reviewed a bounty of studies on marriage and health. One of the report's most striking findings is that married people have fewer doctor's visits and shorter average hospital stays.

    "Nobody quite knows why loving relationships are good for health," Reis says. "The best logic for this is that human beings have been crafted by evolution to live in closely knit social groups. When that is not happening, the biological systems ... get overwhelmed."

    Another theory is that people in good relationships take better care of themselves. A spouse may keep you honest in your oral hygiene. A best friend could motivate you to eat more whole grains. Over time, these good habits translate to fewer illnesses.

    2. Less Depression & Substance Abuse - According to the Health and Human Services report, getting married and staying married reduces depression in both men and women. This finding is not surprising, Reis says, because social isolation is clearly linked to higher rates of depression. What's interesting is that marriage also contributes to a decline in heavy drinking and drug abuse, especially among young adults.

    3. Lower Blood Pressure - A happy marriage is good for your blood pressure. That's the conclusion of a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Researchers found happily married people had the best blood pressure, followed by singles. Unhappily married participants fared the worst.

    Reis says this study illustrates a vital aspect of the way marriage affects health. "Its marital quality and not the fact of marriage that makes a difference," he tells WebMD. This supports the idea that other positive relationships can have similar benefits. In fact, singles with a strong social network also did well in the blood pressure study, though not as well as happily married people.

    4. Less Anxiety - When it comes to anxiety, a loving, stable relationship is superior to new romance. Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook used functional MRI (fMRI) scans to look at the brains of people in love. They compared passionate new couples with strongly connected long-term couples. Both groups showed activation in a part of the brain associated with intense love.

    "It's the dopamine-reward area, the same area that responds to cocaine or winning a lot of money," says Arthur Aron, PhD, one of the study's authors. But there were striking differences between the two groups in other parts of the brain. In long-term relationships, "you also have activation in the areas associated with bonding ... and less activation in the area that produces anxiety." The study was presented at the 2008 conference of the Society for Neuroscience.

    5. Natural Pain Control - The fMRI study reveals another big perk for long-term couples -- more activation in the part of the brain that keeps pain under control. A CDC report complements this finding. In a study of more than 127,000 adults, married people were less likely to complain of headaches and back pain.

    A small study published in Psychological Science adds to the intrigue. Researchers subjected 16 married women to the threat of an electric shock. When the women were holding their husband's hand, they showed less response in the brain areas associated with stress. The happier the marriage, the greater the effect.

    6. Better Stress Management - If love helps people cope with pain, what about other types of stress? Aron says there is evidence of a link between social support and stress management. "If you're facing a stressor and you've got the support of someone who loves you, you can cope better," he tells WebMD. If you lose your job, for example, it helps emotionally and financially if a partner is there to support you.

    7. Fewer Colds - We've seen that loving relationships can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression -- a fact that may give the immune system a boost. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who exhibit positive emotions are less likely to get sick after exposure to cold or flu viruses. The study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, compared people who were happy and calm with those who appeared anxious, hostile, or depressed.

    8. Faster Healing - The power of a positive relationship may make flesh wounds heal faster. Researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center gave married couples blister wounds. The wounds healed nearly twice as fast in spouses who interacted warmly compared with those who demonstrated a lot of hostility toward each other. The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

    9. Longer Life - A growing body of research indicates that married people live longer. One of the largest studies examines the effect of marriage on mortality during an eight-year period in the 1990s. Using data from the National Health Interview Survey, researchers found that people who had never been married were 58% more likely to die than married people.

    Aron tells WebMD marriage contributes to longer life mostly through "mutual practical support, financial benefits, and children who provide support."

    But Reis sees an emotional explanation. Marriage protects against death by warding off feelings of isolation. "Loneliness is associated with all-cause mortality -- dying for any reason," he says. In other words, married people live longer because they feel loved and connected.

    10. Happier Life - It may seem obvious that one of love's greatest benefits is joy. But research is just beginning to reveal how strong this link can be. A study in the Journal of Family Psychology shows happiness depends more on the quality of family relationships than on the level of income. And so we have scientific evidence that, at least in some ways, the power of love trumps the power of money.

    There is definitely a huge difference between the love in a new relationship compared to the love of long, established relationships whether they are romantic, friendly, family or even pets.

    But why do so many people experience pain when they are ‘in love’? According to Mike Dooley, author of Infinite Possibilities, he believes there are basically two types of love – Human Love and Infinite (or Divine) Love.

         “The human kind of love is beautiful, but it’s almost always emotion based. Which means that it’s conditional, based on beliefs and perceptions, so it becomes something that can be given and taken. Unfortunately, it’s often nodded with conflicts, expectations and hopes. It’s often transient, felt only when circumstances fit into a predefined mold or when certain personal rules are met. It is contingent upon approval, respect, reciprocation or friendship. It’s rarely, if ever, truly unconditional.

         Infinite love is everywhere always. It has no antonym. It is time, space and matter. It is thought, awareness and energy. It’s the present moment and every form of consciousness it contains. It’s the desire and fulfillment of every dream ever dreamt. The spirit of life in an endless dance of joyful becoming. This love, therefore, can’t be escaped. Even if you wanted to escape it, it’s absolute. Right now, no matter who you are, it holds you in the palm of its hand. A hand big enough to hold, keep and understand the most misguided and vile of all people. This kind of Infinite Love is not an emotional love. It’s not contingent on time, space or matter, thoughts, beliefs or perceptions. …it’s your heritage. It’s what you are made of. And it’s your destination. It’s always there to be drawn upon for comfort and support, but all too often we’re oblivious to its ever present existence, which is invisible, until you look for it.”

    In my all-time favorite book, The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Shovel Shinn, she defines ‘Real Love’ this way – “Real love is selfless and free from fear. It pours itself out upon the object of its affection, without demanding anything in return. Its joy is in the joy of giving. Love is God in manifestation, and the strongest magnetic force in the universe. Pure, unselfish love draws to itself its own; it does not need to seek or demand. Scarcely anyone has the faintest conception of real love.”

    So how do we experience Real, Divine, or Infinite Love? We begin with ourselves.

    In a retreat I attended with Medical Intuitive, Christel Nani, she led a group of people with closed heart chakras to sing. Sing anything. Old McDonald. Whatever. She teaches that your heart cannot remain closed while you are singing. Try it!

    Eva Selhub, M.D., author of The Love Response®, teaches the following meditation to reinforce self-compassion. The secret is to practice regularly.

    Say out loud to yourself: (I suggest looking directly into your own eyes in a mirror as you do so, though closing your eyes and focusing on your heart is good too. Try both and see which helps you believe it more.)

    • I am enough
    • I have enough
    • I have what it takes -- come what may
    • I am a miracle

    Whatever type of relationship you are in, the one with yourself is the most important. Loving yourself just as you are opens you to love and accept others just as they are.

    So be kind to yourself today and every day. Give yourself a hug. Know you are loved.

    How to Physically Experience God’s Divine Love