February is here and with it Saint Valentines Day. Embracing a time of year that is historically associated with love and fertility. It encompasses the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera in Ancient Athens. And also the Ancient Roman festival of Lupercus, the god of fertility. You may be spending it with your loved one or dreaming of a loved one you’ve not met yet. Maybe you’re simply dreading this time of the year where everyone else seems to be so “in love”.
Now, there are several things that we need in order to develop a healthy emotional life. One of which is that we must have the ability to love and receive love. To care and be cared for by at least one other person is key. That’s not to say everyone has to find a ‘significant other’. Or even that fulfilment can only be achieved with that one person. No it’s simply the experience of being cared for or loved that has a beneficial effect on our self-development or sense of worth.
Effects on our health
Our resilience increases when we are loved. Take for example loneliness, it can be as dangerous as high blood pressure, obesity, smoking or a lack of exercise. When we take it down to the fine detail of the cells of chronically lonely people, they are less sensitive to signalling from the stress system as a result of the stress hormone cortisol. This is where immune responses then become inadequate. And when people become chronically lonely they are far more likely to become depressed.
Networks & Community
But if people have a strong network of family, friends or community they are happier and emotionally and physically healthier people than those who feel isolated or unable to make connections with others. Interestingly elderly people who rely on two or more people in their lives for support have been found to survive longer after a heart attack than others without that support. Increasingly common is the situation where people flounder when they live apart. Following their job or wherever their careers take them, may cause them to be far away from any established social support networks they previously held. And so they lose contact with the very people who care for them through the unpredictable heartbreaks and uncertainties of life.