Humans are social animals. There’s no getting around the science that our support system—the network we count on for encouragement, inspiration, love, and guidance—is vital to our physical and psychological health. Science indicates romantic relationships play an especially powerful role in our wellness: increasing our life span, lowering rates of depression and anxiety, and spiking overall mood. A good relationship can even pad the pocketbook when sharing financial resources.
But be warned, the reverse is also true. Bad relationships wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. They flood our systems with toxic stress hormones, make us less creative and more insecure. The key to having your relationship make you better, more peaceful at home and productive at work, is to have a healthy relationship. If you want to be the most dynamic and satisfied as possible—ditch the dysfunctional relationship sooner, not later. You win twice; you get rid of the negative anchor dragging you through the dregs and open yourself up for the positive health benefits a good relationship will activate.
4 ways a good relationship improves your physical and mental wellness:
- Hormonal Bliss. When a romantic interest enters your life a chemical reaction sparks, literally. The connection you feel floods your body with feel-good hormones. Rushes of dopamine, one of the hormones triggered when people are in love, instigates pleasure, optimism, energy and a sense of well-being. Physical touch—hugging, kissing, hand-holding and sexual intimacy—releases oxytocin, which drops stress hormones. Research shows these positive love related emotions build up your immune system, lower your blood pressure, and increase healing time after illness and injury. As if the physical boosts weren’t enough, they also inhibit anxiety and depression.
- Physical Super Powers. A committed relationship breeds both biological and behavioral benefits for your body. A European journal of preventive cardiology published a study that evaluated heart attack rates for married and unmarried people and showed that married people were less likely than single peers to have, or die from, a heart attack. The Journal of Health and Social Behavior study shows married people have a post-surgery survival rate three times higher than single people. The British Medical Journal published an article indicating that health benefits continue to increase over the longevity of a relationship. Some of the health bonuses men reap are a consequence of the way a committed relationship affects their behavior. Men tend to drink more, driver faster, and live more risky lives when they are single. Think back to when you were rolling solo, you probably stayed out later (so you got less sleep), were quicker to get into fights, and ate more junk food. Many men won’t care as much about their own safety and health when single as they will when they have another person in their life they care about. Men’s habits in positive relationships become healthier because their partner nags …uh um…encourages them to adopt a more active and healthful lifestyle. They are more likely to ditch cigarettes, see the doctor regularly, exercise, and improve their nutrition.
- Mental and Productivity Super Powers. University of Chicago researchers report that being in a committed relationship is associated with a reduction in cortisol, a stress hormone. The finding bolsters a growing body of evidence showing marriage can insulate us against stress. Emotional support lifts psychological health because people are more stable when they feel someone is looking out for their interests and cares about their welfare. Having a loved one’s support helps people achieve difficult goals, rebound from devastating life events, and manage life’s unpredictable ups and downs. Companionship makes the poignant moments less heartbreaking, and the funny and blissful moments more intensely gratifying.
- Financial Perks. Two incomes buy a better quality of life than one. Since finances are one of the biggest life stressors, having someone to contribute to the household expenses adds stability. Knowing you have a partner that has your back to weather life’s storms boosts your confidence, leading to increased productivity and creativity.
There’s no doubt there are times when every relationship, no matter how positive and loving, has its share of strain. But overall, a good partnership promotes security and stability. Caring about someone takes you outside of your own head, making you less self-absorbed and freer to live in the moment. A solid mate you can work toward goals with betters your chances of achieving them. It also makes the journey more enjoyable. Superpowers might not only be for comic book heroes after all.