There is truth to the saying that love heals all wounds. In the field of psychoneuroimmunology, researchers are showing that our emotions affect our physical health. Love, gratitude, and appreciation can improve our physical health by improving our heart health, boosting our immune system, reducing stress and tension, improving mood, and reducing blood pressure and heart rate. Studies conducted at the Heart Math Institute are providing some insight into the reason for these benefits. Their research shows that emotions such as love put the body in a strong state of coherence – our hearts beat in a consistent and strong pattern that is healing for our central nervous and cardiovascular systems. It is the irregular heart beats caused by stress and strong negative emotions that take a toll on our heart and health over time.
Below are five suggestions for cultivating more love in your life:
1. Social Support: Research is showing that individuals with loving and supportive social ties to family, friends, or their community enjoy significantly better health. The key is to be part of groups that make you feel good, loved, appreciated, and supported. Spend more time with people who leave you with feelings of well-being and positivity. Find groups based on interests, hobbies, lifestyle, religious or spiritual beliefs
2. Hugging till Relaxed: Hugging till relaxed is an exercise developed by marriage counselor Dr. David Schnarch that you can do with your partner. To do this exercise, stand a few feet apart to begin with. Close your eyes and become centered and in-tune with yourself. Then shuffle forward and wrap your arms around each other for a hug. Try to stay balanced within yourself while sharing emotional energy with your partner.
3. Journaling for Love: There are several journaling techniques that can help you cultivate more love in your life. A gratitude list is essential for shifting negative thought patterns or victim mentality into the empowered energy of appreciation. Love letters written in your journal can be a great way to say thank you or express love for people who have profoundly influenced your life. A free-write on your most favorite memories can help you cultivate self-love.
4. Cultivating Self-Love: More ways to cultivate self-love include doing Louise Hay’s Mirror Work. This exercise asks you to look in the mirror and lovingly say “I love you” to yourself. You can also decide to do more things to improve your mood and well-being such as treating yourself to a gentle massage or spa day, a night out with friends, or engaging in activities you love.
5. Putting Love into Action: One of the most rewarding ways to increase the love in your life is to put your own love into action. Random acts of kindness, paying it forward, volunteering, or planning a special day for a loved one all help you help others. The positive emotions that are generated by loving actions can last throughout the day. Not only are you putting more love into your life, you are putting more love into someone else’s life.
Karren, Keith and Lee Smith, Brent Q. Hafen, Kathryn J. Frandsen. 2006. Mind/Body Health: The Effects of Attitudes, Emotions, and Relationships (4th Edition). New York: Benjamin Cummings.
Chocolate is derived from cocao, a plant that is very high in flavanols. Research is showing that these flavanols provide antioxidant protection and may improve cardiovascular health. One reason for the effect on the cardiovascular system is the trace minerals content in cocao such as magnesium. Other benefits include a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, asthma, and stroke. They protect the brain and can have antihistamine, antimicrobial, memory- and even mood-enhancing properties. One concern with cocao is the lipid content. However, keep in mind that one third of the lipids are composed of stearic acid, which does not negatively affect cholesterol. The other percentage tend to be monounsaturated fats, which provide their own health benefits. What gets confusing is when cocao is made into chocolate; the way it is processed can add unhealthy fats, high fructose corn syrup, and other undesirable chemicals. When shopping for healthy chocolate keep in mind that the darker the chocolate, the more flavanols it has. When buying chocolate bars, look for dark chocolate, organic if possible, that is low in saturated fat and added sugars.
Health by Chocolate. Webmd.com. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/health-by-chocolate (accessed Jan 14, 2013).
Steinberg FM, Bearden MM, Keen CL. 2003. Cocoa and Chocolate Flavonoids: Implications for Cardiovascular Health. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 103 (2): 215-223.
Strand, Erik. 2003. Flavonoids: Antioxidants Help the Mind. Psychology Today Website. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200307/flavonoids-antioxidants-help-the-mind (accessed January 14, 2013).
This healthy chocolate truffle is a great treat for Valentine’s Day. With a generous helping of cocoa powder, it contains many of the health benefits of chocolate. Share with family and friends. This recipe is Gluten free, Dairy free, Refined sugar free, Yeast free, and Corn free.
2 tbsp cocoa butter
2 tbsp coconut butter
2 tbsp coconut oil
4 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup shredded coconut
Begin by melting the cocoa butter, coconut butter, coconut oil, and honey in a double boiler on the stove over low-medium heat. Once it’s melted, add in the vanilla extract and orange zest. In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa powder, shredded coconut, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Pour the melted mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well. Once the mixture is fully combined, you can start rolling it into perfect bite size truffles of sweetness. You should get about 15-20 truffles depending on how big or small you make them. Then you can top them with whatever you like. We chose Goji berries, shredded coconut, cocoa powder, and carob powder. They are extremely delicious even without any toppings.
Magnesium is a mineral that the body needs for more than 300 biochemical reactions. It cannot be created within the body, and must be ingested in order to help maintain muscle, bone and nerve function, keep a steady heart rhythm and blood pressure, and create a strong immune system. The body also needs Magnesium to regulate blood sugar levels. Foods high in Magnesium include green vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and bran from whole, unrefined grains. Another excellent source of magnesium is cocoa, especially powdered cocao. Even if individuals consume enough magnesium to technically be considered not deficient, experts agree that most people do not consume enough magnesium to store in the body. Without extra stores, individuals will not get the added cardiovascular and immune boosting benefits of this critical mineral. In addition, some chronic digestive troubles such as Crohn’s Disease will hinder the proper absorption of magnesium. Other individuals that are prone to low magnesium levels include those on medications such as diuretics and some antibiotics, those who have low potassium or calcium levels, and the elderly. Signs of low magnesium include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. Before supplementing Magnesium, it is important to talk it over with your Naturopathic Doctor. Each patient’s health is unique. Your ND can discuss with you how best to supplement magnesium in your diet.
“Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Magnesium.” Office of Dietary Supplements National Institutes of Health Website.
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ (accessed Jan 14, 2013).
Gaby, Alan. 2011. Nutritional medicine. Concord, N.H: Fritz Perlberg Publishing.
Pizzorno, Joseph E., and Michael T. Murray. 1999. Textbook of natural medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
Panax ginseng, one of the most stimulating forms of Ginseng, is an herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a general health tonic. It is important not to confuse Panax with other herbs such as Siberian Ginseng, which does not contain the active ingredient ginsenosides. There is strong evidence suggesting that Ginseng boosts the immune system and lowers blood sugar levels, which could benefit people with type 2 diabetes. Other research shows that is can improve concentration and learning ability. There is also a body of evidence that suggests Ginseng can improve mood, boost endurance, and address erectile dysfunction. In general, Ginseng is an overall tonic that can enhance health and well-being. It is a good idea to talk to your Naturopathic Doctor before adding any new supplement into your diet.
Ginseng. WebMD.com. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-ginseng (accessed January 14, 2013).
Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. 2000. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
Hugging a loved one has tremendous health benefits, such as reducing stress chemicals, raising a females oxytocin levels, and lowering blood pressure and heart rate. In fact, the American Psychosomatic Society recommends a 10 minute hug or hand-holding between romantic partners because of its positive effects on stress. If done in the morning before work, the results can last long into a stressful day. In a study released by the American Psychosomatic Society, couples who engaged in these loving activities had lower blood pressure and heart rates throughout a stressful day than couples who did not. In general, loving touch has long been established to help improve health conditions of all kinds for all ages from babies to the elderly. Practice hugging loved ones, children, parents, and friends on a daily basis to improve your mood and theirs.
Ditzen, Beate, Christiane Hoppmann, and Petra Klumb. 2008. “Positive Couple Interactions and Daily Cortisol: On the Stress-Protecting Role of Intimacy.” Psychosomatic Medicine (70) 8: 883-889.
Light, Kathleen, Karen M. Grewen, and Janet A. Amico. 2005. More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women. Biological Psychology (69) 1: 5ñ21.
Elias, Marilyn. 2003. Study: Hugs Warm the Heart, and May Protect It. USA Today. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2003-03-09-hug-usat_x.htm (accessed Jan 14, 2013).