Did you know that along with a healthy diet and exercise, feelings of love can also affect your health? Feelings of love have the ability to influence motivation and behaviors in a positive way. Research shows that being in a happy, loving relationship can benefit our health in several ways.

Love is known for bringing out positive emotions in people, such as laughter, which is good for your mental health. Have you ever heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine”? Some researchers think this can help you feel better and put that pep back in your step.

Feelings of love can act as an antidote that fights stress, as well as mental and physical pain. Studies have shown that when people are in loving relationships they tend to heal faster from a disease. This emotion can also help us fight and sometimes avoid illnesses, adopt healthier emotional and physical habits, and live longer and happier lives.

Acts of love can counteract negative emotions that tend to affect the cardiovascular, immune and endocrine systems adversely. One study found that writing a love letter can reduce cholesterol for both the writer and the recipient.

Holding hands with your loved one may reduce stress. Hugs do make a difference! Hugging someone you love often increases the production of oxytocin allowing you to feel good. When someone is in love, their heart rate increases causing a blood flow increase to every part of their bodies. This emotion is healthy for mind and body.

Romantic love is not only the only kind of love that is good for one’s health.

The love we feel for our friends, family members and even for our pets works in the same way. In general, any kind of love has a positive impact on everyone’s health. Friendships are very important as they give you emotional stability and help you develop a sense of belonging. Loving and caring for friends, along with having that feeling reciprocated can boost happiness, reduce stress, and can increase the sense of self-worth.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with your friends, family, or sweetie and enjoy all the wellness love brings to your life. Try to celebrate this special day in a healthy manner. Make plans that include some physical activity such as a romantic walk under the moon and the stars. Cook a delicious dinner for your sweetheart that includes healthy and balanced ingredients. If you go out to dinner, choose the healthier options in the menu. Remember that exercise, healthy eating habits and love make a happier and healthier you!

Larry Jones, MPH, is the director of the Independence Health Department.