A dose of love

By • Published: February 14th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

If you’ve ever sat around doodling hearts and daydreaming about frolicking in a field of wildflowers and kittens with that one special person, chances are, you have probably been in love.

Specifically, those first, head-over-heels stages of a romance, when all the world feels so warm, fuzzy and magical. Sigh …

So, is it any surprise that feeling this type of passionate love can actually make pain less, well, painful?

Researchers from Stanford University used MRI to get a closer look at what goes on in the brains of people who are in love. It turns out that for those who are newly smitten, just looking at a photo can trigger feelings that seem to dull pain. How did the researchers come to this conclusion? The scientists compared how their love-struck study subjects responded to pain while they were looking at a photo of their loved ones. They then repeated the same test but switched out the photos, using a snapshot of an attractive friend instead.

Gazing at that special someone seemed to fire up the brain’s reward centers, which helps block that ‘Ow! Ow! Ow!’ feeling. Looking at the picture of the friend just didn’t have the same effect.

Although the study specifically examined people in new relationships, the scientists say being in a longer relationship may help people better respond to pain, too.

It’s just one more example of how love can help keep you healthy. Numerous studies have shown how simply holding hands with or hugging someone you love can boost levels of the love hormone oxytocin. Married folks are also less likely to get sick, and hitched ladies suffer fewer bouts of depression.

So, who needs that aspirin? Try falling in love instead!