Read Part I here.
Listen to the whole blog in 6 minutes below.
Last week, I discussed how Essential Oils Can Be a Remedy for Stressed Out Brains and Broken Hearts During the Holidays.
Today, I just completed a blog on how Christmas itself can be its own remedy. It is the spirit of what Christmas represents, not the day I am speaking of. This day can unite all people, regardless of faith and culture, if we view this holiday as a celebration of love.
It is believed by all Christians to be the most sacred of all events, portrayed in the form of the innocence of a child. We all could benefit from not forgetting this message throughout the whole year. For those who are more agonistic, a man who is believed to be a selfless giver with the spirit of a saint (“Santa Claus”), so happened to pick the very same sacred night to remind the world, regardless of belief, that there is soulful medicine to be found in gratitude.
Although I am no way an authority on faith, religion, sociology, or politics, I do consider myself well-versed in the language of the human body. This ability to explore the mysteries of the universe and human body is a form of love to me.
Because love is medicine.
Here are some excerpts from articles on how love positively influences health and humanity.
1. Love Promotes Health.
Love has consequences for health and well-being. Engaging in joyful activities such as love may activate areas in the brain responsible for emotion, attention, motivation and memory (i.e., limbic structures), and it may further serve to control the autonomic nervous system, i.e., stress reduction. This specific CNS activity pattern appears to exert protective effects, even on the brain itself. Moreover, anxiolytic effects of pleasurable experiences may occur by promotion of an inhibitory tone in specific areas of the brain. Thus, love and pleasure clearly are capable of stimulating health, well-being and (re)productivity: This wonderful biological instrument makes procreation and maintenance of organisms and their species a deeply rewarding and pleasurable experience, thus ensuring survival, health, and perpetuation. (Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2005 Jun;26(3):264-7.)
2. The Biochemistry of Love: An Oxytocin Hypothesis
Love is deeply biological. It pervades every aspect of our lives and has inspired countless works of art. Love also has a profound effect on our mental and physical state. A ‘broken heart’ or a failed relationship can have disastrous effects; bereavement disrupts human physiology and might even precipitate death. Without loving relationships, humans fail to flourish, even if all of their other basic needs are met.
As such, love is clearly not ‘just’ an emotion; it is a biological process that is both dynamic and bidirectional in several dimensions. Social interactions between individuals, for example, trigger cognitive and physiological processes that influence emotional and mental states. In turn, these changes influence future social interactions. Similarly, the maintenance of loving relationships requires constant feedback through sensory and cognitive systems; the body seeks love and responds constantly to interaction with loved ones or to the absence of such interaction.
The case for a major role for oxytocin in love is strong, but until recently has been based largely on extrapolation from research on parental behaviour  or social behaviours in animals [5,6]. However, human experiments have shown that intranasal delivery of oxytocin can facilitate social behaviours, including eye contact and social cognition —behaviours that are at the heart of love.
Of course, oxytocin is not the molecular equivalent of love. It is just one important component of a complex neurochemical system that allows the body to adapt to highly emotive situations. The systems necessary for reciprocal social interactions involve extensive neural networks through the brain and autonomic nervous system that are dynamic and constantly changing during the lifespan of an individual. We also know that the properties of oxytocin are not predetermined or fixed. Oxytocin’s cellular receptors are regulated by other hormones and epigenetic factors. These receptors change and adapt on the basis of life experiences. Both oxytocin and the experience of love change over time. In spite of limitations, new knowledge of the properties of oxytocin has proven useful in explaining several enigmatic features of love. (EMBO Rep. 2013 Jan; 14(1): 12–16.)
The authors discuss how oxytocin interacts with various biological signals, including vasopressin which supports “vigilance and guarding.” Interestingly, they state:
By contrast, oxytocin is associated with immobility without fear. (EMBO Rep. 2013 Jan; 14(1): 12–16.)
Today can be a day that celebrates a feeling associated with the absence of fear and ability to move toward others….
3. The Power of Love on the Human Brain
Romantic love has been the source for some of the greatest achievements of mankind throughout the ages. The recent localization of romantic love within subcortico-cortical reward, motivation and emotion systems in the human brain has suggested that love is a goal-directed drive with predictable facilitation effects on cognitive behavior, rather than a pure emotion. Here we show that the subliminal exposure of a beloved’s name (romantic prime) during a lexical decision task dramatically improves performance in women in love (Experiment 1), as the subliminal presentation of a passion’s descriptive noun does (Experiment 2). The parallel between love and passion allows us to interpret these facilitation effects as corresponding to cognitive top-down processes within a motivation-enhanced neural network. (Soc Neurosci. 2006;1(2):90-103. doi: 10.1080/17470910600976547.)
4. The Neurobiology of Love.
Love is a complex neurobiological phenomenon, relying on trust, belief, pleasure and reward activities within the brain, i.e., limbic processes. These processes critically involve oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine, and serotonergic signaling. Moreover, endorphin and endogenous morphinergic mechanisms, coupled to nitric oxide autoregulatory pathways, play a role. Naturally rewarding or pleasurable activities are necessary for survival and appetitive motivation, usually governing beneficial biological behaviors like eating, sex, and reproduction. Yet, a broad basis of common signaling and beneficial neurobiological features exists with connection to the love concept, thereby combining physiological aspects related to maternal, romantic or sexual love and attachment with other healthy activities or neurobiological states. Medical practice can make use of this concept, i.e., mind/body or integrative medicine. Thus, love, pleasure, and lust have a stress-reducing and health-promoting potential, since they carry the ability to heal or facilitate beneficial motivation and behavior. In addition, love and pleasure ensure the survival of individuals and their species. After all, love is a joyful and useful activity that encompasses wellness and feelings of well-being. (Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2005 Jun;26(3):175-92.)
Happy Christmas everyone.
Happy holidays all!
Happy Love and Giving Day, Everyday, World!