Mother’s Day is upon us, and once again millions of flowery cards and words of love and gratitude will be exchanged on Sunday. Some of the sentiment will be genuine and some will feel perfunctory. Either way, it seems like a good time to stop and reflect on what love really does for us. How does giving and receiving love keep us healthy?

Hugging and hand-holding are known to trigger release of the hormone oxytocin, lowering stress hormones in the blood, thereby reducing blood pressure. Feelings of love also trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, leading to feelings of pleasure and motivation.

Practicing gratitude has been associated with sleeping better, exercising more, having fewer health problems, and experiencing greater general well-being. How do you practice gratitude? Some people keep journals for this purpose, and write in them regularly.

Married people (who we will assume love each other) tend to live longer, visit the doctor less often and drink less than single people. Happily married people have lower blood pressure than those who are not, and tend to recover from injuries faster.

So it’s always a good day to nurture your relationships, and not just with Mom. Surprising as it may seem, loving yourself first goes a long way to helping you love others. If you treat yourself like your own best friend, limiting the negative self-talk going on in your head, your perspective on life will be brighter and your interactions with others will improve.

During a loving kindness meditation yesterday, I reflected on the people in my life that I love. Some are easier to love, and be loved by, than others. But it’s important to let all of them know that they are loved. One of the best ways to do that is to be generous with my time and attention to them, to really see and listen to them, even in the difficult moments.

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

All You Need is Love

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