Falling in love feels great. Falling out of love hurts. Do those things impact more than just our emotional well-being?
The answer is a resounding yes! Falling in love and sex as a physical act of love can have a variety of impacts, both physical and mental.
Physically, love can have these benefits:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce stress levels
- Improve your sleep patterns
- Boost your immune system
The positive mental impacts can:
- Improve your self esteem
- Bolster your self confidence
- Reduce anxiety
- Blunt the impacts of depression and reduce your chances of becoming depressed
Although it takes some of the romanticism out of the equation to know it, the big drivers here are hormonal. In particular, being in love increases both the dopamine and oxytocin levels in your body, and it is these that help drive most of the positive benefits, both mental and physical.
There’s a dark side to the equation though, and that of course, is falling out of love. Just as falling in and being in love can give you a raft of benefits, falling out of love or being rejected can hurt you in real and tangible ways.
You may not realize it, but there’s an actual condition called Broken Heart Syndrome. If you have it, it can seriously impact your health. The stress caused by the condition can actually cause the heart to enlarge, which can be fatal. In addition to that, falling out of love or being rejected dramatically increases your stress levels, disrupts your sleep patterns, and can lead to deep depression.
The good news is that the heart is resilient, and we can rebound from falling out of love or being rejected. If you’ve been profoundly hurt by someone, take plenty of time for self-care and give yourself time to heal. It may not feel like it at the outset, but things will get better!
How much time do you spend thinking about your heart? Unless you’ve recently had a heart attack or some other heart related problem, the answer is probably ‘not much’. However, it’s important to understand the basics of heart health if you want to maximize your overall health.
With that in mind, here are the basics:
Opinions vary somewhat on what a healthy, normal heart rate is. Generally speaking, it’s somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute, and some experts peg the range between 50 and 70. Slower than that, and doctors will refer to your heartbeat as bradycardia (Slow heart). Faster than that, and they’ll use the term tachycardia (fast heart).
When you exercise rigorously, it will cause your heart rate to increase to 70-80 percent of your maximum heart rate. To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from the number 220. If you’re 40 years old, your maximum heart rate should be 180. 70-80 percent of this gives you a range of 126 to 144. If your heart rate exceeds this during rigorous exercise, it’s a sign that there’s a problem.
If your heart rate is abnormal, you could see a wide range of symptoms, depending on whether your heart is beating faster or more slowly than it should be.
If you have a slower heartbeat than normal, you may see things like:
If your heart rate is above normal, you may see symptoms like:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in your chest
- Palpitations or a fluttering sensation in your chest
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
In either case, it is a cause for alarm and you should see your doctor immediately. Granted, these symptoms may well be caused by something other than your heart rate, but it simply doesn’t pay to take any chances!
How many hours of sleep do you get on average every night? Most Americans suffer a sleep deficit.
We simply don’t get enough. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the optimal amount of sleep you need depends mostly on how old you are.
Here’s the scoop on how much sleep you need per day:
- Newborn Babies (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours
- Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours
- School-Aged Children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours
- Young Adults (18 to 25 years): 7 to 9 hours
- Adults (26 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours
- Older Adults (65 years or older): 7 to 8 hours
As you can see, there’s quite a lot of variability here, so the answer of 8 hours of sleep per night doesn’t really tell the whole story.
In addition to the above, gender differences affect the amount and quality of sleep we get. Women, for instance, tend to require somewhat more sleep than men and will usually be higher on the range for any given age bracket. Women are also more prone to developing sleep disorders, while men tend to be much more prone to snoring (which naturally, can also disrupt the woman’s sleep patterns).
Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to improve your sleep. These include:
- Establish and stick to a regular bedtime
- Develop a pre-sleep routine which includes a warm bath, a light snack, and perhaps a bit of reading just before bed
- Keeping your bedroom on the cool side, between 60 and 67 degrees.
If you do these simple things, you’ll dramatically improve the quality of your sleep!
Breathing is something we’ve obviously all been doing since the day we were born. So of all the things you do on any given day, the last one you might think you need to practice would be breathing. It sounds almost counter-intuitive then, that there’s more to breathing than first meets the eye.
Good breathing habits means each breath is smooth, steady and controlled. You should not have to strain or force it. Your breath should be mostly silent with no wheezing or rumbling in your lungs.
Although there are a surprising number of muscle groups involved in drawing every breath you take, your diaphragm drives and controls much of the process. It tightens with each inhale to allow your lungs to expand into the space in your chest.
Better breathing habits mostly come down to an increased mindfulness. Your body knows what to do. However, if you focus on and practice good breathing habits, you’ll find that over time it will take less exertion to breathe, even when you’re under stress or working out.
You’ll also strengthen your diaphragm over time, slow down your natural breathing rate, and decrease the amount of oxygen you need. All of those are good things. Best of all, it’s something you can do from the comfort of home in ten minutes or less a day.
Here’s a simple, quick diaphragm exercise you can do starting today:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and a comfortable pillow placed under your head.
- If you want or need to, place a second pillow under your knees for added support.
- Place one hand on the upper part of your chest and your other hand just below your rib cage. This will enable you to feel your diaphragm as it moves.
- Inhale slowly, breathing through your nose, feeling your stomach expand.
- Engage your stomach muscles, draw them toward your spine as you exhale through your mouth
- Repeat for a period of five to ten minutes.
If you take the time to do this every day, you’ll find that you breathe easier and feel better all day long!